Sunday 4 February 2018

The exploits of the Busby Babes made United the club we are today

The 6th February is a date etched on the hearts and minds of United fans everywhere, young or old. It's a date that is always a poignant and emotional one, but especially so this year as 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the darkest day in the club's history. Even for a Reds fan of my age, a supporter who experienced nothing of the post-Munich United, we must never forget those who died in 1958. Munich was a disaster that has shaped and defined the club into the global modern day institution we have become. The home match with Huddersfield on Saturday was the one closest to the anniversary date, and as tradition dictates, saw commemorations to mark the air crash. The players wore black armbands, prayers and poems were read out beneath the permanent East Stand memorial, and Old Trafford fell silent before kick off in memory of the 23 people who lost their lives. Eight of those victims were players and a further three were members of club staff.  The finest club side that English football had ever seen was effectively wiped out and United as a club were reduced to rubble.

On Tuesday, the anniversary itself, there will be a special service at the club with more commerorations and another minute's silence at 3.04pm - the exact time the plane went down 60 years ago. You don't need me to tell the story of the crash and the Busby Babes it so tragically took the lives of. It's a day of horror that has been recounted countless times and these pages would not be fitting to tell that tale when it's known so famously throughout the world. None of us ever know what that swashbuckling and trailblazing side, built so brilliantly by Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy, would have gone to achieve, but their exploits are interwoven in the fabric of United, and what happened after the crash only served to show what an indelible mark every one of those boys had on the history of this club. Masterminded by Busby - who himself very nearly died - and his visionary, understated assistant Murphy, the Reds somehow rose from the wreckage to become champions of Europe ten years later in the ultimate tale of triumph over tragedy in the face of nigh on impossible adversity. Murphy had the job of rebuilding not just a team, but an entire club, and did so with the very hallmarks that make us the club we are: courage,  passion, spirit, strength, bravery, the ability to never give in and the precious commodity of a never-say-die attitude.

Even for those of us who did not have the privilege of watching arguably United's greatest ever team, we've grown up with the household names of the Busby Babes who set the benchmark for every other United side since then to follow, succeed and live up to. The current Reds side may boast a vastly experienced squad of international superstars managed by one of the best in the business, but this team will never make their mark - or be held in the same esteem - in the same way.
The first English side to face a step into the unknown and take on the best the continent had to offer, it was a cruel twist of fate that their pioneering exploits would end up costing the Busby Babes their lives.

Every single one of them will never, ever, be forgotten. The flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester.  KTRFFH for Man United will never die.

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