The Man Who Changed Football: Sir Matt Busby's Top 5 United Moments

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Sir Matt Busby: The man who found the missing key in football

"When they're playing in your town, get yourself to that football ground, take a lesson, come and see, football taught by Matt Busby," as so is screamed from the bottom of the lungs to the top of the heart at every Manchester United game, 70 years on from the Busby Babes' first league triumph.

It was on January 20th, 1994, 52 years after leaving United for the first time, Sir Alexander Matthew Busby died and left behind a football legacy that remains unrivalled, awe-inspiring and one which will echo in the eternity of both United and this sport we adore so much.

Busby would build the famous Busby Babes a few years into his post and the history of football would change the moment the likes of Duncan Edwards put pen to paper at the club, and a new key to success would spread across Europe until this very day; a very youthful-looking key.

Not many men have changed football like Busby. Let's take a look his 5 best moments at United.

The Birth of the Busby babes

The importance and the unwritten must-have of youth at United was created in 1952. Busby had, by this point, already won the FA Cup with the Red Devils three years prior, and finished as runners-up in the league in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951, before eventually winning the title in the 1951/52 campaign.

At this time, the Busby Babes would be created, as a side captained by Johnny Carey was showing its age and the United boss had to find new players. Busby was expected to abide by the norm and sign high-profile players from other clubs. However, the Scot opted to find men of his own and make them play and live the Busby way, signing players as young as 16 and 17.

Bill Foulkes, Mark Jones, Jackie Blanchflower, Albert Scanlon, David Pegg and forward Liam Whelan were the first group of youngsters to join, and among them was Duncan Edwards, a man looked at as the greatest talent of his generation.

Other players would follow, and the young side was so irreplaceable that Tommy Taylor and Harry Gregg were United's only major signings across the five years the Busby Babes developed. To put that in perspective, even the great Sir Alex Ferguson and his Class of '92 needed some help along the way in the form of Eric Cantona, Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam and others in the 1990s.

From the point of Busby's youthful overhaul in 1952, the club would win two league titles until the Munich air disaster took the lives of eight of the Busby Babes.

"Manchester is my heaven"

Following the First Division title win of 1955/56, Busby sealed United's second title and caught the eye of Real Madrid, who at the time, were beginning their Alfredo Di Stefano-inspired domination of Europe, where an unprecedented five European titles in a row would come.

Real won the first of those five European Cups the year Busby claimed a second league title in four years for United and the Scot was looked at as the man moving forward for this record-breaking time at what is now perceived as being the most dominant force in all of European Cup history.

"Like managing paradise," the then-president of Real, Santiago Bernabéu de Yeste, told the legendary United manager as he tried to persuade him to swap Manchester for Madrid.

Busby's response, however, would be enough to plaster his face across Old Trafford for all eternity in itself.

"Manchester is my heaven," he said, and the Busby Babes would continue along with United's rapidly changing history under his leadership.

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The first trophy in 37 years

By the time the ex-Scotland international put pen to paper at Old Trafford in February 1945, the Second World War was finally concluding. The then-coach of the Army Physical Training Corps, Busby, was still in uniform as he turned up at Cornbrook Cold Storage - which was one of the United chairman James W. Gibson's businesses at Trafford Park - to discuss the job.

The new United manager would begin his work officially on October 1st in 1945, and immediately, Busby requested that he be directly involved in everything, from the training, picking the players up on matchdays and even the takeover of the transfer outgoings and incomings from the club directors, all of which was unheard of in English football.

Back then, Busby's initial three-year deal was bumped up to a five-year one, as this is how long the Scot stated it would take to make his revolution come to fruition. However, three years is all it took to bag his first trophy as Jack Rowley netted twice in a 4-2 win over Blackpool, which would mean United lifted silverware for the first time in 37 years.

To put that length of time without a trophy prior to Busby in perspective, there had been two global wars since the club's First Division title win in the 1910/11 season.

United's first trophy after Munich

After the Munich air disaster, not just had United lost eight first team players and vital components to their increasing success like Edwards, they also now didn't have a full squad, with speculation even arising on the club folding.

However, Jimmy Murphy, a man who Busby purposely chose to join his team following an inspirational speech to the troops about football, took the reigns as caretaker manager and finished the 1957/58 season off for United. The club would win one league game after the crash, forcing the collapse of their title defence as they finished in ninth place.

Busby would take back control of the team the next season and a new side around the Munich survivors including Gregg, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes would follow.

Noel Cantwell, Pat Cerand, David Herd, Albert Quixall and Denis Law would all follow and help United to win their first trophy since the disaster - the 1962/63 FA Cup.

In that final, United would beat Leicester City at Wembley in front of 99,604 people as Law scored before a Herd brace. United would also narrowly avoid relegation that season, as Busby and the club still felt the impact of Munich, while the manager continued to rebuild a side for the future. And, in truth, all this did was emphasise the footballing genius and human intelligence of a legend in Busby.

The club's first-ever European Cup triumph

That night at Wembley.

United travelled down to London to meet Benfica in the club's first-ever European Cup final (known today as the Champions League) in 1968, just as the Portuguese giants entered their fifth final, two of which they had one. However, despite such history and the miraculous nature of the United's rise post-Munich, much of the press believed United were the favourites, despite the negativity towards their defence and the clear dependency on the United Trinity: George Best, Charlton and Law.

On European Cup final day, an estimated 250m people tuned in on TV, which was an extraordinary number back then, and Charlton would give the club the lead until Jaime Graca equalised for Benfica on the 79th minute. Then, in what is arguably the best showing inside one half of extra time on a stage of this magnitude, United scored three goals in seven minutes, as Best reclaimed the lead before Brian Kidd and Charlton ended all hope for Benfica.

The European Cup triumph was United's first-ever and their only one until Sir Alex Ferguson's Class of '92 put on their best impression of a Busby team and won the Champions League in 1999, before Ferguson regained the trophy in 2008. It also marked a complete circulation of 10 years since the Munich air disaster to which United lost much of their team, battled relegation, won back the First Division twice and then reached the pinnacle of club football by lifting its most prestigious trophy.

It was also the first time a club from England had won the European Cup and remains arguably the most remarkable feat in the history of a club from Great Britain, given the circumstances. This also certainly sits as the most beautiful moment in United's poetically beautiful history.


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