Showing posts with label European Cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European Cup. Show all posts

Sir Matt Busby 'Mr Manchester United'

On this day: 20th January 1994 Sir Matt Busby passed away as MUFC under Sir Alex Ferguson successfully went on to win the first League and Cup double which had eluded Busby. Earlier in May, 1993 MUFC had ended their 26 year wait to become English League Champions once again. Few poignant quotes from Sir Matt Busby...

Recollections on becoming the manager of MUFC: "It was not an easy assignment. The ground had been blitzed, they had an overdraft at the bank, what is more I had no experience as a manager, and I felt they were taking a great risk in appointing me."

Wearing a track suit whilst holding a training session: "Playing a wee bit o' football with the lads."

His first act after becoming MUFC manager was to ask Jimmy Murphy to be his assistant: "It could be that what either Jimmy Murphy or I lacked the other had. He would always give a straight-forward opinion. He was no yes-man."

To Stan Pearson facing big spenders Derby County in FA Cup semi-finals 1948 who duly scored a hat-trick in that match: "The greatest thrill in soccer is playing at Wembley on Cup Final day."

Keen on entering the new European competition against Football League's wishes: "Prestige alone demanded that the Continental challenge should be met, not avoided."

Introducing youth players from the academy be it Roger Bryne and Jackie Blanchflower vs Liverpool in Nov, '51 and many others since "If you’re good enough, you’re old enough."

His philosophy after winning the League in 1955 with Busby Babes: "From the very start I had envisaged making my own players, having a kind of nursery so that they could be trained in the kind of pattern I was trying to create for Manchester United."

Whispering to Jimmy Murphy as Busby lay in hospital bed after the crash: "Keep the flag flying"

Returning to Manchester for the first time: "Resting in Interlaken, Germany was one thing and facing Old Trafford another. When I approached the ground and moved over the bridge along which our supporters had squeezed fifty abreast in there tens of thousands to shout for us I could scarcely bear to look. I knew the ghosts of the babes would still be there, and there they are still, and they will always be there as long as those who saw them still cross the bridge, young, gay, red ghosts on the green grass of Old Trafford."

Trauma of being a survivor of a tragedy: "To be honest, I suppose I wasn't sane. I was raving and creating hell with everyone. Why us? Was it some human error or had this been decreed from above? If so, why hadn't I died with them?"

Fighting back: "There were many difficulties to overcome, but the hardest thing of all was coming round to flying again. For a few matches after Munich we went abroad by sea and train, but obviously that couldn't go on for too long. We all had to deal with it in our different ways."

Inspiration to carry on after Munich: "Frankly, ever since my wife, Jean, had told me in the Munich hospital that she felt sure the lads who had died would have wanted me to carry on, I had become increasingly obsessed about United winning the European Cup. It was almost as if this glittering trophy were the Holy Grail."

On Bobby Charlton scoring 68 goals in three seasons immediately after Munich "When things looked their blackest after the Munich accident, and there were times when I felt great despair, I was enormously cheered to think that Bobby Charlton was there. His presence was a great source of inspiration to keep working for the restoration of Manchester United."

On George Best who between 1964 to 1971 for 8 seasons hardly missed any games against hard tackling players like Ron Harris, Norman Hunter, Tommy Smith, Frank McLintock, Mike Doyle, Danny Blanchflower in an era when referees could not do anything to protect creative players: "George Best had more ways of beating a player than anyone I've ever seen. He was unique in his gifts." Incidentally George Best received the second ever Red Card in English game when it was belatedly introduced in 1976 when he used foul language against referee playing for Fulham in the second division.

Surprisingly lost to Partizan Belgrade in the semi-finals of European Cup 1966 when the United squad was at its peak: "We'll never win the European Cup now."

Decisive game of 1966-67 season beating West Ham 6-1 at Upton Park (who had three World Cup winners Sir Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and had reached the finals of Cup Winners Cup) with the finest display of football seen in England post the second world war: "This was my greatest hour." All three of the Trinity - Charlton(1), Law(2) and Best(1) scored in that game. That same XI except Denis Law who was injured and replaced by Brian Kidd played in the victorious European Cup final a year later.

To his players before the start of crucial extra time in the European Cup final 1968: "I told them they were throwing the game away with careless passing instead of continuing with their confident football. I told them they must start to hold the ball and play again."

His decision to retire on 14th January, 1969: "Manchester United have become rather more than a football club. They are now an institution. I am finding less and less time to attend to the thing I consider paramount, which is the playing side."

Being conferred Manchester's first Freeman: "Football's great occasions are, for me at any rate, unequaled in the world of sport. I feel a sense of romance, wonder and mystery, a sense of beauty and poetry. The game becomes larger than life. It has something of the timeless, magical quality of legend."

53 years to the debut of Big Al

Alex Stepney made his Manchester United debut today(17 September) in 1966 in goal against Manchester City in a 1-0 win with Denis Law scoring the winner. Overall he made 539 appearances keeping 175 clean sheets. He was born on 18 September, 1942.

A snapshot of his career.
  • Cockney lad who played for Milwall came via Chelsea where Tommy Docherty released him in Aug '66 for a record fee #55,000. Immediately became No 1 choice displacing David Gaskell and Pat Dunne who had shared the goal-keeping duties during the '65 League winning season.
  • Sir Matt Busby credited him for Manchester United winning the First Division league title in '67: "The single most important factor behind our championship success in 1967 was signing Alex Stepney."
  • In a Charity Shield game the traditional curtain raiser for a new season MUFC as league champions faced the FA Cup winners in Tottenham Hotspur on 12-Aug-1967. Their goal keeper Pat Jennings scored a goal from a kick which went past MUFC defenders and bounced off Alex Stepney who had come front.
  • Alex Stepney stood his ground to not only withstand Eusebio's net bursting shot but held it firmly to keep MUFC in the European Cup final of '68 which played a major role in Reds finally realizing the dream of Sir Matt Busby of becoming Champions of Europe. Eusebio immediately applauded the save from Alex Stepney aware perhaps of its consequence. His only cap for England came against Sweden at Wembley only a week earlier than the European Cup final allowing Alex Stepney to get to know the turf better.
  • His fumble cost '70 League Cup semi-final to Manchester City losing 3-4.
  • Broke two fingers while making a save to help MUFC beat West Brom 2-1 and take an important step to avoid relegation in '73. Jimmy Rimmer kept goal in his absence.
  • 89* consecutive appearances between 07-Apr-73 till 01-Feb-75.(* many claim its 92 not 89)
  • Played in all the games of the 1973-74 season when MUFC were relegated and became the 1st MUFC Goalkeeper to play through all games in a season across the League, FA Cup and League Cup. A feat only achieved since by Gary Bailey in 79-80 and Jim Leighton in 88-89 season. The great Dane Peter Schmeichel played through all games of league season only once in 92-93 while Gary Walsh played a game each in League Cup and UEFA Cup that season! Big Al even stepped up to take penalties during the summer and Doc asked him to take the ones in First Division match against Leicester City and Birmingham both of which he duly scored. Was helpless to prevent the back-heel of Denis Law who scored the goal that led to eventual relegation for the Reds.
  • Part of rebuild under Tommy Docherty to lift the Second Division title in '74. Tommy Docherty and Tommy Cavanagh changed the playing style to a simple possession based football with short passes and Alex Stepney was asked to throw the ball to nearest defender to play from the back rather than kicking the ball.
  • Part of two FA Cup finals: losing to an offside goal from Bobby Stokes of Southampton in '76 whose shot had an unfortunate bounce that beat Alex Stepney and winning a year later in '77 to stop Liverpool winning the Treble, which MUFC finally won in '99.
  • His testimonial match was against Benfica in March, 1977.
  • Played his last competitive match for MUFC on 29, April 1978 in a 1-2 loss away at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wonderers. Left MUFC after Gary Bailey was promoted following the aborted transfer of Jimmy Blyth from Coventry due to a failed medical and Paddy Roche could not cement his place. Dave Sexton dropped Alex Stepney in a first significant change to the team of Tommy Docherty in November '77 to arrest the slide favouring Roche but to no avail. For '78 season Sexton started with Roche in goal whose confidence was shattered in 1-5 loss to Birmingham City and Bailey stepped up to face Ipswich in a 2-0 win. 
  • Played in the Manchester United centenary game on 07, August 1978 against Real Madrid in a 4-0 win.
  • His autobiography revealed how Wilf McGuinness once made Sir Bobby Charlton do 20 press-ups in a suit and how Denis Law came to know about the end of his illustrious MUFC career under Tommy Docherty.

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