Showing posts with label Sir Bobby Charlton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sir Bobby Charlton. Show all posts

At long last recognition for 'Forgotten Babe' Johnny Berry

About a year ago published my article about 'Flowers of Manchester' in which I found the name of then United vice-captain Johnny Berry missing. I pursued it with Patrick Burns of Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation (MMMF) and Mike Thomas of Munich58 both are independent fan-led organization that organize the memorial events at ManchesterPlatz, Munich and at The Munich Plaque, Old Trafford every year in association with Manchester United Football Club. Happy to say that my humble request was accepted after four months of deliberations which makes me feel extremely satisfied to have contributed in an infinitesimally small way back to the club I love.

Bit about the legendary wing wizard. It was in India where Johnny Berry while playing for British Army team captured the attention of Birmingham City captain Fred Harris who recommended him despite his short stature. Birmingham City originated as Small Heath similar to Manchester United who used to be known as Newton Heath. Starting out as an amateur in 1944 at the age of 18 and signing professional in the year when the team won the Second Division in 1947-48 and got promoted. Blues lost 0-3 to MUFC at Maine Road on 20th Nov, 1948 when Berry was not in the squad and won the home fixture on 19th March, 1949 1-0 with Berry in the squad as Len Boyd scored the winner in 49th minute. Blues finished 17th in the league. MUFC title challenge capitulated next season when they faced the blues twice during 9 game winless run. Johnny Berry tormented MUFC and scored the 2nd goal on 70th minute in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on 7th April, 1950 that is hailed as one of the finest post war goals ever scored at Old Trafford as Reds keeper Ignasius Feehan's made his final appearance. Three days later both teams drew 0-0 at St. Andrews. MUFC finished 4th three points behind champions Portmouth while blues were relegated finishing bottom of the league. 

While in the second division Johnny Berry played in all 42 league games of the season for the blues who finished 4th failing to win back promotion. Still managed to beat MUFC in 6th round of the FA Cup when Higgins scored just 44 seconds after kick-off. Blues lost to Blackpool in the semi-finals of FA Cup. In all 114 appearances for the blues Johnny Berry scored 6 goals. Sir Matt Busby pursued Johnny Berry for 18 months to replace Jimmy Delaney and finally got his man for a club record transfer of #25,000 on 01-Aug, 1951 which stood for 14 years as a record outgoing transfer for the blues just shy of 17 year all-time record of England's first million dollar transfer of Trevor Francis! Johnny Berry was part of Blues team that faced MUFC on four occasions, won three and drew one i.e., unbeaten!

In Ivan Ponting's definitive book the 'Manchester United: The Red Army' Busby's pursuit of Berry is described as "When Johnny Berry was Birmingham City player, Matt Busby was sick of the sight of him. Every time the tiny, but tough, right winger faced United he tortured the Red's defense. In the end the Old Trafford boss decided the only way to put an end to the torment was to sign the tormentor."

In his first season Berry played 36 of 42 league matches scoring 6 times as MUFC finally won their first Championship in 1951-52 after 41 year wait. His signing in 1951 was perhaps as significant as Alex Stepney's for 1967 title. His debut for United against Bolton ended in a 0-1 loss on 1st September, 1951. He and captain Roger Byrne are the only two players to have been part of all three championship winning teams of the 50's including in 1955-56 and 1956-57. He scored his first United goal in the Manchester derby on 15th September in a 2-1 win and many of his goals came at critical moments for the team. His most famous goal is against Athletic Bilbao in the quarter finals of European Cup in the 84th minute that clinched the tie 6-5 on aggregate the match played under floodlights in Maine Road on 6th February, 1957 exactly to a year before the tragedy at Munich. On returning from the first leg at Bilbao under heavy snow United players were asked to sweep the snow off the wings of the aircraft before take-off as his son Neil Berry told Manchester Evening News in March, 2012. Neil Berry who watched that unforgettable match in 1957 at Maine Road published a book about his dad aptly titled 'Johnny The Forgotten Babe' which I would love to read to get to know more about this legend who wore the famous number 7 shirt for most of the 50's for Manchester United.

During the 1955-56 league winning campaign MUFC faced their direct rivals Blackpool at home in April which could settle the title with two further games to spare. Captain Roger Byrne had another nightmare dream of missing a penalty before the game and when United got one after being 0-1 down he ordered Johnny Berry to take it. 1-1. As final whistle was approaching Berry provided an inspired cross for Tommy Taylor to score through his outstretched leg after the opposing keeper had slipped. United won by a margin of 11 points as Blackpool with the great Stanley Matthews lost their last four matches to finish second which is still their best ever finish in Blackpool's history. Berry made his England debut with Tommy Taylor on the South American tour match against Argentina which was cancelled due to water-logging after 36 minutes. All four caps of Berry were outside England, three in South America in 1953 and one in Sweden in 1956 (Duncan Edwards also played alongside Byrne, Berry and Taylor). He competed with the greats Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney limiting his chances considerably.

On 6th October, 1956 when Bobby Charlton made his debut vs Charlton Athletic and scored two goals, Johnny Berry captained the side in the absence of club captain Roger Byrne who was away on England duty. In the FA Cup that season United beat Bournemouth the giant killers who had beaten Wolves and Spurs already but trailed 0-1 at half-time with a man down as Mark Jones was forced out injured. Johnny Berry scored two goals in the second half to help United reach  the semi-finals where they met his old cub Birmingham City. It was Bobby Charlton's FA Cup debut "Against Birmingham, we got into our stride very quickly, and when Johnny Berry wriggled through to open the scoring in the 12th minute it meant that our opponents had to open up the game, which immediately made them vulnerable to our great attacking resources." Charlton scored the second goal from David Pegg's cross to win 2-0 at Hillsborough to ensure United progressed through to finale at Wembley for the first time since 1948.


A dip in form in late November 1957 forced Matt Busby to make four changes for the match against Leicester City when he dropped Johnny Berry for an 18 year old Kenny Morgans from FA Youth Cup winning team and a debut for Harry Gregg in goal. In the last match of Busby Babes in England "the greatest league match ever played" ended Arsenal 4 Manchester United 5 at Highbury where United led 3-0 at half-time, Berry who did not make the starting XI rightly reminded the team that game was not over yet. Morgans again started in Belgrade that ended in a 3-3 draw but Munich devastated him psychologically despite surviving the crash without major physical injury.

Johnny Berry missed his passport at the Belgrade airport and plane was delayed from taking off which meant they landed in Munich hours later and under much heavy snow. Was this the reason Berry's name was excluded from the 'Flowers of Manchester'? Definitely not as clarified by Harry Gregg in his biography 'Wild About Football' published in 1961 "There was a mix-up over visas - and I was the one who unwittingly caused it. We had been told to get our passports so that they could be sent ahead to the airport. There was no mention of visas, so when I was going to my room to get my passport, I offered to get Johnny Berry's, as well. It was in his suitcase; so was his visa. I collected both our passports, dropped Johnny's visa back into the case - and promptly forgot about the whole business. But when we reached the airport, it was discovered that Johnny's visa was missing... which was with rest of our luggage on the plane! There was about an hour's delay before the matter was sorted out."

In fact the condition of Johnny Berry was more serious than Duncan Edwards. Professor Maurer took Jimmy Murphy, Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes round the wards to tell about their chances of survival.
 Boss: 50-50,
Blanchflower: OK,
Edwards: 50-50,
Berry: "No, no, I am not God."

Berry was the last United player to be discharged from Munich hospital two months after the crash as he suffered skull fracture, broken jaw, broken limbs which meant he would never play football again. He was the last person to know about the scale of the tragedy as he kept complaining to Sir Matt Busby that his good friend Tommy Taylor had not come to see him. This incident was the most painful of Busby's life. In a Manchester hospital upon his return he read the team news in the newspaper and forced the doctor to reveal the truth about his former team-mates.  

Physically his condition might not have seemed as bad as that of Jackie Blanchflower which led few to falsely believe he might play again. Berry was betrayed by the club when they forced him to leave his allotted house to accommodate the new signing Maurice Setters in 1960. Johnny Berry and Kenny Morgans were in Wembley when United finally won the European Cup in 1968. Berry was the first of the Munich survivor's to die in 1994 at just 68. Johnny Berry, Tommy Taylor and Harry Gregg were the three specialists who were brought by Sir Matt Busby to plug the gaps and help the Babes with experience. It's among those three that Berry deserves the recognition that has eluded him thus far. Perhaps the remembrance events and responsibilities especially for the lyrics were not as organized until Munich58 came about in 2001 and MMMF later. Apart from Munich58 and MMF, I would also like to thank Paul from the 'UtdBeforFergie' twitter group and its amazing followers to have sustained my keen interest in United's history.

From being not sure to tweak the lyrics which many fans treat as an anthem to checking the change log which revealed one pending instance that of word 'brain' to 'frame' in reference to Duncan Edwards, needing a figurehead to champion the cause and consultations with song writer, finally had the confirmation on 14th October, 2020 from Mike Thomas "Well done on a successful campaign :-)".  United face Everton at Old Trafford on 6th February. Covid-19 restrictions will mean a limited ceremony this year, perhaps a bittersweet one for the Berry family who might have felted 'forgotten' for the last 63 years!

Old lyrics:
Big Duncan he went too with an injury to his brain
And Ireland's brave Jack Blanchflower will never play again

New lyrics:
Big Duncan he went too with an injury to his frame
Johnny Berry and Jack Blanchflower will never play again

United's best defensive left back Tony Dunne passes away

Irishman Tony Dune watched the Busby Babes play against Shamrock Rovers in European Cup in 1957 and later was spotted by United's great scout Billy Behan who signed him from Shelbourne United for just #5,000 in 1960. Initially brought as a cover for Noel Cantwell and Shay Brennan he ended up playing a big part it all the major honours won in the 1960's heyday including an FA Cup, two League titles, two Charity Shield's and an European Cup in 1968.
Tony Dunne made his debut on 15th October, 1960 in a 3-5 away loss to Burnley at Turf Moor in which Dennis Viollet scored a hat-trick. Injury to Cantwell meant Dunne notched up 28 league appearances in his second season itself at left-back while in his 3rd season he played at right-back 8 of 25 times as cover for injured Shay Brennan including the FA Cup final to become the first choice full-back ahead of the two, missing just 8 matches in next 5 seasons. He scored his first goal in a 3-3 draw away at West Brom on 4th May, 1966 and his last in a 2-2 draw away at Newcastle on 9th Dec, 1967.

In one of the rare quotes of Tony Dunne he said the following of the 1967 Championship win: "We realised that teams without as much ability as us were giving more effort. Our great players in particular realised this and came through at just the right time."

Tony Dunne had great pace to recover the ball but rarely used it for attacking purposes and one of the reasons for not venturing forward might be the plethora of options United had in forward positions. Matt Busby chose to use Dunne as his last man when going forward so as to stop the counter-attack from the opposing team utilizing the pace of Manchester United's most capped Irishman. Sir Bobby Charlton recalls how he trained with Dunne especially dividing duties on the left wing if any of opposing players tried to run with the ball and trying to overlap the opposition to create an avenue of attack. This also helped improve the duo's positioning when not in possession of the ball. By the time of winning the European Cup, Tony Dunne was hailed as the best left back in Europe of the 60's and played in all European games that season. In the 5-1 scintillating win over Benfica in Lisbon in 1966 European Cup quarter-finals Dunne provided the cross from foul on Charlton for George Best to head home the first goal.

United veteran Bill Foulkes led the defense for much of the 60's with Nobby Stiles made this assessment of his two full-backs Dunne and Brennan: "What a contrast this make to the old-time defenders who were invariably big brawny fellows whose aim was to stop the wingers at any cost. They fit into the modern concept which calls for defenders to have the skill of forwards with an eye for going up in attack whenever the situation calls for it.  Both of them rely on skill for getting the ball rather than brute strength, and they can speed along, especially Tony who must be one of the fastest backs in the business."

His last game for United was in a 1-4 away loss to Ipswich on 17th Feb, 1973. He left United at the same time as Denis Law after Tommy Docherty took over and began purging the old side. Since the acrimony over his testimonial he had limited his visits to Old Trafford even declining to attend the Champions' League finals in '99 as guest. He joined Bolton Wonderers at the age of 32 and notched up 170 games helping them to lift the second division title in 1978. He ended his career with North American Soccer League in United States with Detroit Express.
Slight similarity with Ferguson claiming Denis Irwin was his best buy who was also a left back and an Irishman. Also in the reckoning to be greatest left back of Manchester United will be former captain Roger Byrne as well as Arthur Albiston and Patrice Evra. Both Dunne and Irwin were not the stars of their teams but quiet, consistent performers and versatile to play on either flanks never giving their boss any trouble. While picking the all time greatest United XI the former player and legend of Leeds United Johnny Giles includes both Irishman at two full back positions perhaps at the expense of another Irishman Johnny Carey who has the first talent scouted for United by Billy Behan.

In 2011 the club bought all the medals and memorabilia when Dunne had put them for auction. He is not related to another Dunne of the same era the goal keeper Pat. In total Anthony Peter Dunne played in about 535 matches scoring 2 goals and like many of the stars of the 60's had settled near Manchester. Here is the club's tribute video.

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."

United should honour Docherty now as they realize the task Solskjaer has

Tommy Docherty was sacked as Manchester United manager after winning the 1977 FA Cup as reports of his affair with club physio's wife was made public. More details emerged about the way he conducted deals out of advertisements, tour games, tickets for FA Cup matches, belittling the senior players etc during the libel he threw at Willie Morgan who called him "about the worst manager there had ever been." The impulsive Docherty retorted "Any manager who says he has not cheated or lied is not being honest." Based on Sir Matt Busby's high standards he should have sent Docherty off much before winning the first major trophy for MUFC after he won the European Cup in 1968.

Docherty was managing Scotland with Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Denis Law, Lou Macari, Martin Buchan calling them "the most talented squad the national team has ever been able to call upon" who were well on their way to qualify for 1974 World Cup. Sir Matt Busby poached him after consulting seniors in the team from Scotland. With the retirement of Sir Bobby Charlton at the end of the season MUFC board had a huge outlay for transfers and Doc brought four Scottish players in Alex Forsyth, George Graham, Lou Macari and Jim Holton to being dubbed the first million dollar team. Drew 1-1 with Leeds United in his first match and once played eight Scottish players in a league match against West Ham. Incidentally MUFC lost to Arsenal in the first match of '73 and went out of the FA Cup to Wolves 0-1. MUFC avoided relegation by finishing 18th but the next season they succumbed.

Docherty' reign preceded with the sacking of George Best simultaneously with that of previous manager Frank O'Farrell and the Ulsterman was persuaded to re-join briefly between Oct '73 to Jan '74 [Won 2, Drew 4, Lost 7, scored twice]. Charlton ended his career in his first season and then Doc transfer listed Denis Law who joined local rivals City to send MUFC infamously into the second division with his back heel. End of the United Trinity of Ballon d'Or winners with 287 most amazing matches between them starting with 4-1 win over West Brom when all three scored on 18, Jan 1964 to 28, Oct 1972 in a 1-4 loss to Tottenham!

To call the rebuild task as monumental might also be an understatement: Tommy Cavanagh as his assistant to instill discipline in the squad, appointed Brentford manager Frank Blunstone as youth coach: Arthur Albiston, Gerry Daly, Brian Greenhoff, David McCreery, Jimmy Nicholl came to the fore; moved Sammy McIlroy to midfield, gave MUFC their identity back in Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill on the wings, shrewd purchase of Stan Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff who reserved his special for Liverpool, won promotion immediately finishing 3rd in the league and reached the FA Cup final in '76, Stopped LFC from winning the treble with that '77 FA Cup win. MUFC became the 1st English team to win the European treble under Ferguson in 1999. Led MUFC back in Europe for the first time since Busby with UEFA Cup beating Ajax but lost to Juventus in the next round despite winning the 1st leg 1-0 with a Gordon Hill masterclass while the absence of skipper Marin Buchan cost the 2nd leg.

Doc was last at Old Trafford in 2014 the experience apparently that left him sore "I won’t be back at United after them charging me for my tickets about three years ago. I got an invoice for £88 for two seats so that was it for me. If I fancy a game locally I’ll phone up Mike Summerbee at City and they always look after me. But I’m done with United." Dave Sexton who did the double over MUFC with modest Coventry might have been at Old Trafford assisting numerous England coaches. While Ron Atkinson upset MUFC with Sheffield Wednesday in League Cup final and appears on MUTV quite regularly. Doc never managed to be at a club for more than 2 seasons after his MUFC tenure and later confessed to be regretful about leaving Scotland for MUFC.

Clearly the reasons are not football related but the rebuild that has lasted till Ferguson's appointment does not justify the impertinence shown towards Tommy Docherty now in his 90's. He should have been invited for the opening game of this season which was against Doc's Chelsea for whom he played, managed and changed their colours from White to Blue. Wolves the last major club he managed whom MUFC face in the FA Cup 3rd round replay at Old Trafford this Wednesday offers the club another chance.

On this day: 14-Jan-1969 Sir Matt Busby announced his decision to retire at the end of the season and become general manager at MUFC.

On England's 1000th game the best MUFC XI

The squad:
Alex Stepney (GK)
Gary Neville
Gary Pallister
Rio Ferdinand
Roger Byrne
Duncan Edwards
Bryan Robson (C)
David Beckham
Wayne Rooney
Tommy Taylor
Sir Bobby Charlton

Subs: Ray Wood, Phil Neville, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilkins, Steve Coppell, Teddy Sheringham

England's first, youngest and longest serving team manager was Walter Winterbottom who had a brief spell as a player at MUFC in 1930's. Between 1946 and 1962 he oversaw England participation in all four World Cups wherein the quarter-final defeat to eventual champions Brazil in 1962 was his best result. In 1958 World Cup in Sweden his squad was depleted due to the Munich Air Disaster which robbed him of three first team regulars in Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor and prior to the event were beaten only once in 17 consecutive games. He did pick a young Bobby Charlton but did not play him even for a single match while Pele debuted spectacularly for Brazil being 3 years younger.  During his tenure a selection committee usually picked the squad and his influence was limited mainly as a trainer which he professionally taught and wrote about. Hungary famously beat England at home 6-3 in 1953 and 7-1 away in 1954.

Jack Mew and Alex Stepney won just one cap, Gary Bailey two and Ray Wood and Ben Foster three is the tale of MUFC goal keepers who have represented England. Alex Stepney has easily been the most successful at club level. Steve Bruce is perhaps the most famous MUFC player for never having represented England (Jimmy Greenhoff and Alan Gowling were also denied) being the first double winning captain of MUFC while his partner at centre-half Gary Pallister earned first of 22 caps while still playing for Middlesbrough in the second division. Rio Ferdinand became the youngest player to debut as a centre-half at 19 years 8 days while still playing for West Ham and ended up with 81 caps. Gary Neville holds the record for most caps by a right back at 85 and played with his brother Phil in the same team 31 times; Phil has 59 caps. Bill Foulkes sole cap came against Northern Ireland in 1954 as a right back. Roger Byrne held the record for most consecutive appearances for England with 33 at left back and being the Captain of the famous Busby Babes.

Duncan Edwards became the youngest post-war player to play for England in 1955 at 18 years 183 days against Scotland, in total played 18 times scoring 5 goals including that 'boom-boom' shot against World Champions West Germany. His England captain Billy Wright had this to say "There have been few individual performances to match what he produced in Germany. He tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it all off with cracking goal."

'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson leads the team as he carried the side on numerous occasion on his own in the 80's, once scoring a goal in just 27 seconds against France in 1982 World Cup. David Beckham peaked as England captain under Sven-Goran Eriksson scoring that crucial free-kick at Old Trafford against Greece to secure the qualification and was rumoured to want away from MUFC when Sir Alex Ferguson reversed his decision to retire as the Swede Eriksson was lined up to succeed. Paul Scholes had lesser impact than either Nobby Stiles or Ray Wilkins. Steve Coppell's impressive career on the wing with 42 caps 7 goals came to an abrupt end at just 28 years when he sustained a knee-injury while playing against Hungary to qualify for 1982 World Cup.

Tommy Taylor had an incredible goal ratio for both MUFC and England, scoring 131 goals in 191 games for club and 16 goals including two hat-tricks in just 19 appearances for country. Alfredo di Stefano called him 'Magnifico' and was seen as a long term replacement for aging Nat Lofthouse. Wayne Rooney beat the all time scoring record long held by Sir Bobby Charlton at 49 goals for more than 45 years but could only score one of his 53 goals in World Cup competition against Uruguay in 2014 and four at the Euro's across three tournaments! George Wall the left winger who was a key player to during the reds first victorious phase in late 1900's decade comes close to cementing that spot but in terms of best MUFC players to represent England have Sir Bobby Charlton at left wing. Charlton's best came against Portugal in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup and the great 'Der Kaiser' Franz Beckenbauer summed that glorious World Cup as "England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me." Teddy Sheringham's best came in two spells on either side of his MUFC tenure, firstly partnering with Alan Shearer to reach the semi-finals of the Euro '96 and then being used as a tactical sub for his intelligent play especially in the 2002 World Cup in Japan; overall scored 11 goals in 51 games.

Viv Anderson was Sir Alex Ferguson's first signing in 1987 and became the first black player to represent England while playing for Nottingham Forest in 1978. Owen Hargreaves who got most of his caps while playing for Bayern Munich before his move to MUFC to help win the 2008 Champions League was in fact born in Canada. Most notable player born outside England was James Princep who was born in India and held twin records of being the youngest player to represent England in 1879 at 17 years 252 days and to play in FA Cup final at 17 years 245 days. He held both records for around 125 years!


Belgrade evokes the toughest of MUFC memories

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But we know we'll meet again
some sunny day...

So Roger Byrne led his team mates to sing when the waiters brought sweat meats to end the meal at a banquet in Majestic Hotel, Belgrade. MUFC beat Red Star Belgrade 5-4 on aggregate in the 1958 European Cup quarter-finals and drew 3-3 in Belgrade on their last match on 5th February before heading for fateful refueling stop at Munich. That last match was played at the present Partizan stadium due to lack of floodlights at the old Avala which was rebuilt in 1963 into a new Red Star stadium later renamed in 2014 to honour club legend Rajko Mitic.

Cruelty of English Football Association was exposed when they snatched Sir Bobby Charlton for a friendly against Portugal while MUFC ravaged by Munich disaster played AC Milan in the semi-finals. Charlton was absent for the 2nd leg as he was picked by the FA to play Yugoslavia and in Belgrade! Sir Bobby Charlton was selected for 1958 World Cup with England having lost Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edwards at Munich, but was never played!! Pele was 3 years younger to Charlton at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where he burst on the scene!!!

MUFC came up against Partizan Belgrade in the 1966 semi-finals of the European Cup and lost 1-2 on aggregate. Partizan showed tremendous resistance true to their name to hold on to their 2-0 win at home with 0-1 loss at Old Trafford. George Best had his delayed cartilage operation immediately after the match. Losing this opportunity to win the European Cup Sir Matt Busby called it "my lowest ebb since Munich." MUFC finished fourth that season and out of European competition hence concentrated solely on winning back the league in 1967 to be in Europe for one last attempt at scaling the European peak to avenge the loss of Babes at Munich, and yes they did it in 1968.

MUFC won their second European trophy the Cup Winners Cup in 1991 by beating Barcelona and faced Red Star Belgrade the winners of European Cup in the curtain raiser of the European campaign the Super Cup. This two legged tie was reduced to a single leg at Old Trafford due to civil war in Yugoslavia. Brian McClair scored the only goal in an MUFC win.

Serbian Nemanja Matic will miss this tie with an injury. He refused to wear Remembrance poppy for a Premier League match against AFC Bournemouth in 2018 as NATO had bombed his native village Vrelo in 1999.

Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe and Paul Pogba are the other main absentees. Tonight's Europa League tie away at Partizan is probably the toughest of the group. Victory today might clinch qualification with home games coming up next. Injury hit MUFC have taken academy players Ethan Laird, Brandon Williams, James Garner and goalie Matej Kovar. Jesse Lingard is back while David de Gea is being rested for the crucial fixture at Norwich.

Harry Maguire will make his European debut for MUFC after having missed the AZ Alkamaar game and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might again opt for three at the back with either of Lindelof, Rojo and Jones. Scott McTominay might have to put another shift in with Fred and Pereira after they out ran Liverpool midfield last Sunday due to thread bare squad. All eyes will be on James Garner who has been in great form for the reserves scoring five times from midfield and the amount of game time he gets based on the context of the match. Jesse Lingard will be able to provide much needed rest for Daniel James who can come on as a substitute if MUFC need to get cracking, while Mason Greenwood might cover for Marcus Rashford with Anthony Martial set to start.

Wish Ole did a Shankly about Managerial contract

60 years ago in the 1959-60 season this fixture #MUNLIV did not happen in the league as Liverpool FC were in the old 2nd division and legendary Bill Shankly had just taken over as their manager on 14-Dec-1959 after another tepid start to the season seeking promotion to the old 1st division. Shankly replaced Phil Taylor an ex-Captain of 1950 FA Cup final fame who succeeded Sir Matt Busby the player for LFC between 1936-39 at right half.

Manchester United did meet Liverpool in the FA Cup 4th round, Jan 1960 in the first of 16 meetings between Busby and Shankly. MUFC beat LFC 3-1 away at Anfield in which the maestro Sir Bobby Charlton regained his form after a barren spell to score two expertly taken goals as England coach the ex-MUFC player Walter Winterbottom watched. Bill Shankly later said "It was our misfortune that Bobby hit his real form against us."

It was Bill Shankly who called Sir Matt Busby as "without doubt the greatest manager that ever lived." such was the respect among the two Scottish rivals. In the last season of Shankly 1973-74 MUFC were relegated and tables turned but Busby had been retired for four years.

Shankly had earlier managed Sir Denis Law at Huddersfield Town still in his teens "I'm sure that had I not had Shankly around at that stage of my career, things might have turned out differently." He accepted Ray Wood at Leeds Road in 1958 the goal keeper of the famous Busby Babes team that won two league title's in '56, '57 and an loss in FA Cup final of '57, calling him "the best goal keeper in the second division". Shankly who preferred to 'make stars rather than buy them' enabled Huddersfield Town to become debt free. 1964 saw the only direct player transfer between MUFC and LFC that of 22 year old inside-right Phil Chisnall for #25,000. Later after quitting as manager of LFC, Shankly confirmed to Tommy Docherty the potential of Steve Coppell when Jimmy Murphy had initially scouted him.

In the hindsight given how well Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started as an interim manager, wished he said the following lines from Shankly "Never mind about a contract; give me the team and leave the rest to me." Hope this match is the turning point of the season for MUFC and Ole.

LFC seek the Shankly magic after 60 years to end the 30 year wait to finally win the League, while MUFC would want to once again thwart LFC as they did last season with a battling performance.

Happy 82nd birthday to the ultimate English sporting legend Sir Bobby Charlton

Of the many famous quotes describing Sir Bobby Charlton the one I like the most is undoubtedly from Geoffrey Green: "He always possessed an elemental quality; jinking, changing feet and direction, turning gracefully on the ball or accelerating through a gap surrendered by a confused enemy."

Just ahead of Arthur Hopcraft's The Football Man in which he met Sir Bobby Charlton's sports master Mr McGuiness who had this to say: "Thin lad of 9 playing football with 14 year old's & just waltzing through them. Even at 9 he had a body swerve & a natural check that would take other man the wrong way."

Apart from that much talked about semi-final win over Portugal in the 1966 World Cup, his 68 goals in 3 seasons immediately after Munich on his less favoured left-wing speak volumes of his dedication for Manchester United Football Club. Sir Matt Busby summarized it as "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."

The official MUFC dedication last year with a poetry was top class. 
Other notable quotes about Sir Bobby Charlton:
"Dispossessing Kostic about forty yards from goal, this gifted boy leaned brilliantly into his stride, made ground rapidly for about ten yards, and the beat the finest goalkeeper on the Continent with a shot of tremendous power and superb placing. There, one thought, surely goes England's Bloomer of the future."
Don Davies the 'Old International' of Manchester Guardian 5th Feb, 1958, Belgrade

"Bobby Charlton was still there, a cornerstone on which '62 side was to be built. Alongside me, Busby bought Cantwell, Setters, Herd. These were the new 'Busby Babes': Giles, Stiles, Chisnal, Nicholson, Lawton. Little did we know how good it was going to get over the next 5 years."
Sir Denis Law on his arrival from Torino

"I have nothing but respect for Bobby now, but we were totally different characters, and for a long time didn't get on. There was one similarity. Like me, he was his own man." 
George Best

"England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me."
Franz Beckenbauer

"He was a global star of his day. Go to any country in the world and even if they couldn't speak English, the two words they did know were: 'Bobby Charlton.'"
Sir Geoff Hurst

"Some say Bobby Charlton was a scorer of great goals, rather than a great goalscorer. Yet no player has scored more for England and no player has scored more for its greatest club , Manchester United. So his 49 goals for England and his 249 for United can’t all have been 25-yard thunderbolts – it just seems that way in the mind’s eye. When he hammered one into the top corner from long range it was as if he were a man possessed, desperate to separate the leather casing from the bladder. I made virtually all of my 57 England appearances alongside Bob and I can remember few greater competitors and few greater professionals. His fellow greats like Best and Moore did not lead blameless lives away from the game but Bob was dedicated to his craft.His sainted image made it difficult when you played against United though, because although I never heard him swear at a referee, Bob would moan at them constantly and they would be so in awe of the great man that they’d usually do as they were told. I can remember, more than once, yelling: “F***ing hell ref, why don’t you just give Bobby the whistle, you might as well!” But this is a man who survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, won the World Cup in 1966, the European Cup in 1968 and played a key role in the appointment of Alex Ferguson as Old Trafford manager in 1986. He’s history in the flesh is Bobby Charlton. He’s our greatest living football man."
Jimmy Greaves

Four-time FA Youth Cup winner, FA Cup winner, Thrice English League winner, 1966 World Cup winner, Ballon d'Or winner/European Footballer of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, European Cup winner!!!

Easily the Greatest English sporting legend who conquered it all.

At long last recognition for 'Forgotten Babe' Johnny Berry

About a year ago published my article about ' Flowers of Manchester ' in which I found the name of then United vice-captain Johnny B...

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