Manchester United lose their father figure

Click to follow
SIR MATT BUSBY, the former Manchester United manager and the man who more than anybody created the legend that surrounds the club, died in his sleep yesterday. One of the greatest football managers in the game's history, he was 84 and had been in failing health.

Nearly 36 years ago Busby was twice given the last rites in a German hospital after the 1958 Munich air crash wiped out most of his famous 'Busby Babes' as they returned from a European Cup match. But, along with Bobby Charlton, his most famous protege, Busby survived to fulfil, 10 years later, his dream of winning that Cup.

Busby, a softly spoken Scot born in Lanarkshire, played for Manchester City, Liverpool and Scotland before the Second World War, becoming United's manager in 1945. By the mid-Fifties he had created one of the finest teams to grace the English League, its spirit of youthful vigour embodied on the pitch by the great Duncan Edwards, whom Busby had discovered as a teenager.

United, FA Cup winners in 1948, won the League three times in the Fifties and helped to blaze a trail in European competition at a time when others in the English game were reluctant to get involved. But Busby was always a man of vision. When Edwards and seven other United players died at Munich, Busby, who took months to recover, was left with the task of rebuilding the side from almost nothing.

By 1963 United were winning the FA Cup again and then, around the irresistible trio of Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, Busby fashioned the side that won the League titles of 1965 and 1967 and were almost as much an expression of England in the Sixties as the Beatles.

Busby himself always seemed above the fray, although his gentle touch betrayed an astute footballing brain. His finest moment was in May 1968 when United became the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica 4-1 at Wembley. For Busby, whose Fifties team had European glory beckoning until Munich happened, it was like destiny. Within a year, he had given up the managership.

He was a club director from 1971-82 and president from 1980-93 - a father figure for Manchester United, and revered throughout the football world.

Obituary, page 14

It's dirty work, page 19

Appreciation, page 34

Tributes, page 36

(Photograph omitted)