Manchester United have become the first English club to win the European Cup beating Portuguese side Benfica by four goals to one. Ten years after the Munich air crash, which killed eight of Matt Busby’s young team, Manchester United have reached the pinnacle of European football.
Celtic became the first Scottish and British club to win the cup the previous year. United’s star player, George Best, was named European Footballer of the Year – just a fortnight after being named the football writers’ Footballer of the Year.
Tonight’s match at Wembley was watched by a crowd of 100,000 and an estimated 250 million TV viewers. It was the biggest television audience since the World Cup final two years before. As both teams wear red kit, United opted to play in their blue away strip for the game.
The first half passed in a flurry of fouls before Bobby Charlton headed the opening goal in the second half to make it 1-0. With only 10 minutes left to go, Benfica scored the equaliser – and very nearly won the match when their feared striker Eusebio broke away from Nobby Stiles, the player tasked with marking him, and blasted the ball towards the net.But it was saved by keeper Alex Stepney and the game went into extra time.
Two minutes into extra time Best put United ahead again, slipping round the keeper and gently tapping it over the line.It was followed by two more United goals, from 19-year-old Brian Kidd and captain Bobby Charlton, taking the final score to 4-1.Manager Matt Busby said: "They’ve done us proud. They came back with all their hearts to show everyone what Manchester United are made of. This is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life and I am the proudest man in England tonight."
Busby was seriously injured in the crash which claimed the lives of his so-called Busby Babes and there was speculation at the time that the club had been so badly damaged it would have to fold.But they struggled on to complete the 1958/59 season and when Busby returned to the manager’s role the following season he began the task of rebuilding the side.The club won the league in 1965 and 1967, but today’s win marks the pinnacle of the club’s achievements.Charlton and Bill Foulkes were the only survivors of the crash who played in today’s final.
The European Cup marked the highlight of Matt Busby’s long career at Manchester United and he later received a knighthood. He retired after the following season to become the club’s general manager.
For George Best it was the highlight of his footballing career. The same year he was also named European Footballer of the Year. He was regarded by many as one of the greatest footballing talents in the world, ranked alongside the Brazilian great Pele. He was the first footballer to gain superstar status – but his fame led him into a life of womanising and alcohol. By 1972 he had announced his retirement from the game – he returned to United a year later but by early 1974 he had left for good. In 2002 he had a liver transplant. He died in November 2005.
Bobby Charlton had a distinguished playing career for England and Manchester United. He scored 48 goals for England, a record which still stands. He was knighted in 1994.
Text from BBCs OnThisDay
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