Manchester mourns the Busby Babes

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Manchester United marked the 40th anniversary of the Munich air disaster last night with a memorial service at Manchester Cathedral. Relatives of the eight United players who died in the crash, along with 15 other passengers and crew, were in the congregation to hear tributes to the "Busby Babes".

Sir Bobby Charlton, now a club director, said he had come to speak about "some good friends of mine ... Those players lit up this great city and helped make Manchester United the most popular football club in the world". And Wilf McGuinness, the former Busby Babe who followed Sir Matt into the manager's chair, said of his old teammates, "we loved having fun and we loved each other. We had a wonderful time".

During the day, supporters paid their respects at the club's Old Trafford stadium, fondly known as the "Theatre of Dreams". The flag that Jimmy Murphy, Matt Busby's assistant, kept flying over Manchester United 40 years ago, when the master was fighting for his life, was at half mast, as bouquets were placed beneath the bronze statue of the manager, who died in January 1994. The commemorative Munich clock was central to the day's memories when the hands moved to 3.04 pm, the time when the twin- engine Elizabethan aircraft crashed beyond the runway during the third attempt at a takeoff in snow, ice and slush on 6 February, 1958. The aircraft had stopped to refuel in Munich on the way back from a European Cup quarter- final in Belgrade.

Visitors made their way through a Munich memorial exhibition at the the club's museum. Photographs of the eight players who died, Geoffrey Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan, flanked a short corridor to the memorabilia. A video tribute captured the heroics of the Fifties in black-and-white action, the hymn "Abide With Me" accompanying footage of the 1958 FA Cup final, when Jimmy Murphy's patchwork team of survivors, young reserves and emergency signings were defeated by Bolton Wanderers, 2-0.

The kick-off against, coincidentally, Bolton, will be delayed to allow Sir Bobby Charlton and Nat Lofthouse, Bolton's president, to lay wreaths in the centre circle at four minutes past three.