Its 25 years since Manchester, Football and the world lost a great man, a legend. Today marks that day 25 years ago that Sir Matt Busby sadly passed away.
He was the man that started it all. All of the success we have had since is a direct consequence of everything he did at the club. The values that he instilled in our club all those years ago is still apparent today, and they still will be another 25 years from now.
Of course, Manchester United had been around since before Sir Matt, but we hadn’t had any real success in over 3 decades. We were a club without money and a ground after Old Trafford was destroyed in the Manchester Blitz during the second world war. He took a club and to be fair, a country that was in ruins, to the heights of the football world.
Without him, Manchester United and English Football as we know it now wouldn’t be the same. When he took over United after the war, he demanded “total control”, he wanted to be in charge of all training, picking the starting 11, and deciding which players should be bought and sold. This was something that was unheard of in English football, but the then United owner James Gibson was in no position to argue otherwise.
He along with Jimmy Murphy eventually led us to our first league title in over 40 years in 1952. After the title win in 52, he realised that a lot of the team were getting old and would soon need to be replaced and rather than spend large sums of money on new players, he gradually replaced them with players as young as 16 and 17. These included centre-halves Mark Jones and Jackie Blanchflower, right-back Bill Foulkes, wingers Albert Scanlon and David Pegg, and forward Liam Whelan. And of course, among them, was Duncan Edwards, who many still regard as the finest player to ever grace these islands.
This team, with an average age of only 22, ended up guiding us to back-to-back titles in 56 and 57. Due to the youthful nature of the team, they became known as The Busby Babes. This incredibly young side was extremely successful. So much so, we only made a couple of major signing over a 5 year period. Those included forward Tommy Taylor and goalkeeper Harry Gregg.
And this legacy of building the team around youth is still evident in the club today. Sir Alex Ferguson ended up building his squad around The Class of 92 and the reason why we have had at least one academy graduate in the team for 3,953 consecutive first-team games since October 1937.
Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy then had to rebuild the club again after some of its darkest days. Sadly the team were involved in the Munich Air Disaster after their plane crashed in Munich on the way back from playing Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup. We lost 8 players and 3 staff. Another 12 also died, which included crew, journalists and friends of the club.
We lost the majority of that great team, a team that without a doubt would have gone on to be one of most successful of all time. It took another 10 years for Sir Matt and Jimmy to fully rebuild that team, with him winning the European Cup 10 years after the disaster. He took us from our darkest time to one of our best.
The legacy of Sir Matt Busby will forever live on in the hearts of every United supporter. His legacy will truly never die. Every time a youth player plays for Machester United, that’s his legacy. Every time we play attacking football, that’s his legacy.
I only wish that I was old enough to have watched him manage and to watch the Busby Babes in action. I know from the stories I have been told that it wouldn’t have disappointed.
God Bless Sir Matt Busby. Hope you’re looking after the Babes up there.