Because so much has been written about the dreadful events of that horrific Munich afternoon of 6th February 1958, it is easy to forget that a true miracle did actually occur that gruesome day. This calamity in southern Germany rocked not only Manchester,
but indeed the entire world.
A football team whom in such a short space of time had captured not just more than their fair share of trophies, but maybe equally as important, countless hearts. The Busby Babes. Young boys reared in a style of playing the game by Sir Matt Busby and his assistant Jimmy Murphy. One so simple it was brilliant and when put to use on a football pitch, utterly devastating.
‘Give the ball to a red shirt. Pass and move.’
They were a phenomenon. Nothing it appeared would be able to stand in the path of this outstanding team from beneath the billowing Mancunian smog and smoke. United were coming. Edwards, Colman, Pegg, Whelan, Taylor. And so many more. An array of exciting young British and Irish talent that had been unearthed then nurtured, and when deemed ready by Busby and Murphy, let loose on their first division rivals.
And for a short but unforgettable period. Europe’s elite.
But then came Munich and as dark clouds gathered over Manchester and news began to filter through from Germany of the ever rising list of the dead, then what was once a dream turned overnight into a living nightmare.
The Busby Babes were no more.
Eight players in time were lost with Duncan Edwards fighting ferociously for fifteen days following the crash. Sadly even his gigantic efforts would prove in vain, for Edwards’s injuries were just too great.
Old Trafford became a home of ghosts. Of torment and bitter sad memories. Every corridor haunted with voices of the dead players. Distant laughter but when you looked there was nobody there?
It appeared Manchester United football club had reached its dying embers.
Step forward Jimmy Murphy, who as if possessed took control of this fallen giant and ensured that on the eighth day United would start to rise from the ashes. What happened next and the following decade was a footballing and indeed human miracle.
For only ten years later on an unforgettable night at Wembley stadium, Manchester United became champions of Europe and it was one of the survivors of that dreadful day who staggered out of the felled aircraft, Bobby Charlton, who raised the trophy.
It is a tale if played out on a Hollywood big screen, you would feel inclined to think, absolutely no chance. But it happened. It was real. The pain, horror and ultimate ecstasy. A journey’s end that began when it was felt everything was lost. For truly the miracle of Munich was that amidst the shooting fire and flames of that burning aircraft, men such as Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg and of course the manager Sir Matt Busby were somehow spared the fate of so many others.
As the anniversary dawns. When candles are lit, songs are sung and accolades are spoken, let it be remembered that the above lived to see the memories of those lost, honoured against Benfica. And when the great goalscorer Eusebio raced clear with only minutes to go, maybe it was a heavenly nudge from Duncan Edwards that caused the Black Panther to fire untypically into Alex Stepney’s stomach and leave an everlasting tread mark. Written in the stars?
Who knows, for it really was that kind of story.
And when times get rough once more, let us recall that Manchester United football club, our team have lived through infinitely worst times. For thanks to men such as Busby and the priceless Jimmy Murphy, United are still around.
And that alone is a miracle.
is the eighth day.