How the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 created a legacy to inspire hundreds?

As we approach the 56th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster that claimed the lives of 19, I look back at how such a disaster could create a legacy of arguably one of the most famous teams of the century. Although they maybe in a dark spot now, they will always remember this date and the men that lost their lives. The newsreel on Pathe of the event

Manchester United, arguably the greatest football team in England, but one that is still haunted to this day by a disaster which has hung over the club. The Munich Air Disaster on Thursday 6th February 1958 was one that brought the country to attention at the loss of such great sporting potential.

 The Crash site of the disaster.

The original Busby Babes of the 1950’s included the likes of Tommy Taylor, a strong, promising young English striker who was a consistent scorer for the United team and for his country. There was also Duncan Edwards, a promising young midfielder who had already been recognised for his potential for both club and country. The potential of this team was already quite plainly seen through the fact that they had won the FA Cup in 1948 after being bankrupt during the 1930s and later the league title in 1956 for the first time in the clubs history.

 The Original Busby Babes.

 Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards.

But one night in February, the United team after playing a European game to Red Star Belgrade landed down in Germany for the plane to refuel. Unfortunately, after two attempts at trying to take off, on the 3rd the plane crashed, leading to the deaths of 8 players, 3 staff members and 8 journalists. The average age of the players that were killed was 24, such a young age for players with great potential and long careers ahead of them. The survivors of the great team, Bobby Charlton, Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes, as well as the great Sir Matt Busby, all were part of a rebuilding process which helped to cement this club as one of the greats in world history.

All of those lost in the Munich Air Disaster.

Matt Busby, arguably the most injured out of all the survivors, went on to create a team of legends, but not until 10 years after this horrific incident. The incident itself was met with widespread grief and disbelief that men so young had lost their lives. There were talks of Manchester United closing down but thankfully for the work of the assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, they were able to continue playing, and even beating Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup match 3-0, 13 days after the crash.

Jimmy Murphy portrayed by David Tennant in the film United.
The league itself offered a lot of support in the days after the Munich disaster, offering to postpone their match soon after the crash. With now a threadbare squad, United were offered players from other teams such as Ernie Taylor from Blackpool and Stan Crowther from Aston Villa. This mixed with reserve and youth team players led to Manchester United being able to fill a team which would eventually head to the Wembley in the FA Cup final and loose 2-0 to Bolton, and also head to the European Cup semi-finals only to be beaten by AC Milan. All without Matt Busby and the Busby babes of the time. Busby would later return to the club to see the FA Cup final after being severely injured in the crash.
Manchester United manager Matt Busby smiles as he arrives in Manchester today from MunichSir Matt returns.
But it’s odd to think that perhaps without the fight and the traumas that Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes went through, then Manchester United may not have been as much of a success as they were…
Sir Matt with the European Cup 1968
Matt Busby always had a desire to win the European Cup, but without the accident, would he have been able to achieve his goal? The incident certainly stayed in the minds of all those involved, and players like Bobby Chartlon, Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg were perhaps hardened by the experience and made more determined to win the coveted trophy and be successful on the whole in memory of those they had lost.
Munich memorial at Old Trafford
The legacy of the Munich Air Disaster is also something which has helped lift the Manchester United teams of the years to perform to a top-level. Every year it is still very much remembered with a minute silence. It is something embedded in the United history, the people lost are very much remembered everyday at the ground. The new players coming into the club are educated with the history of the club: they know about the Munich disaster and will play in their memory.
Therefore, although it was such a horrific tragedy and there was loss of life, it has helped to create some sort of legacy. All the players who play for the club are very much aware of the clubs rich history, and they will learn about the Munich Disaster. Every time they pull on the shirt, they know they are pulling on the shirt of legends, and they will play with the players who tragically lost their lives in the Munich disaster very much in their heads. It has created a legacy which many follow and remember.
Although Manchester United may be in a period of decline at the moment under new management, the rebuilding period will mean the team will come out a lot better than they are now, and they will always remember the brave men that lost their lives playing for their team on Thursday 6th February 1958.

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