. . . and Manchester United heroes of the past recall their memorable momentsInterviews by Norman Fox

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Harry Gregg

1958: Bolton 2 Man Utd 0

THE United goalkeeper who survived the 1958 Munich air disaster, recalls that traumatic season when a nation's sympathy willed United, vainly, to win the Cup. After managing and coaching at various clubs, Gregg is now a hotelier in his native Northern Ireland.

I HAD joined the club only in the November of that season from Doncaster Rovers. The manager, Matt Busby, made five changes on the day I arrived, including dropping Ray Wood, the England goalkeeper - I took his place - and bringing in a young fellow called Bobby Charlton. Up to the day of the crash we were undefeated, which was run-of-the-mill for United in those days. People talk about the Busby Babes, believing that meant the last 11 who played, but we had a pool of 42 outstanding players, and, do you know, only four of them had been bought.

The crash brought a lot of that to an end but I came back from Munich a week later and played in our first game. I felt for the Sheffield Wednesday team who played against us, as I did for the Bolton side we met in the final. There was so much sympathy for United. The thing people forget is that the team who had been torn apart still finished second in the First Division the next season; that was a great tribute to Sir Matt and the coach Jimmy Murphy. But every Cup tie, every match, even going on the field at Wembley seemed to me to be an anti-climax; nothing for me would be the same, not for a long time. But being involved saved my sanity.

Bolton were a good side. I wasn't bothered about facing Nat Lofthouse. I'd given a lot of thumps in my time, so I had to take them. When I got bundled over the line by him for their second goal, the referee made a mistake. These days it would be considered GBH, but I didn't talk about it and Nat is a close friend now. I never had problems with Nat if I could see him, but on that occasion I didn't. I had to have an injection in my spine afterwards. There was no bad feeling. I made the mistake of trying to help the ball over the bar. It went up in the air; I had my back to the play and got buried.

There was so much sentiment attached to that final which in a way was unfair to our opponents. Sentiment helped us get the results and helped those who followed us. When I went back to Wembley as a coach with United in later years I enjoyed the occasions much more because there was not that darkness in the background. I feel so fortunate to have survived to be able to see and work with so many great players like the Babes, then George Best, and belong to the same era as Pele and Garrincha.

Lee Martin

1990: C Palace 0 Man Utd 1

A PRODUCT of the famous United youth policy, he appeared to be on his way to becoming a star attacking full-back when he scored the winning goal in the 1990 Cup final replay against Crystal Palace, but eventually left for Celtic where he picked up his career.

IN the Cup final season I'd missed only a couple of games and in the season before that I was a regular first-team player. We were struggling in the League so we needed to do well in the Cup, but we struggled there too because we were drawn away in every game. It was difficult going to places such as Hereford, Forest, Sheffield United and Newcastle, all problems in different ways.Then we had to replay Oldham in the semi-final.

When it got to the final I was fairly confident of playing. On the Saturday it was just so exciting. I was the only one in the team who was a local Manchester lad. I'd dreamed about playing at Wembley since I was a five- year-old. Just walking out was an unforgettable experience. The match ended 3-3 - a better game than the replay - but I got cramp after running up and down that line so much and I got substituted.

On the Tuesday we travelled back down to London and the manager asked how I felt. I'd felt OK as soon as I came off so there was no way I wasn't going to play in the replay. By the Thursday I was a bit more confident than I had been on the Saturday. I knew what to expect.

I watched the game later on television and Trevor Brooking said he thought it would be a defender who would come through and score a goal. He was right. Neil Webb knocked a great ball through to me after I'd run about 60 yards. I took it on my chest and smashed it in the top corner, but it could have gone anywhere. It was my first goal all season. My wife was there; she was eight and a half months pregnant. Just before I scored she had gone downstairs because she was getting contractions. She came back up to my mum and dad. By then I'd got the goal. We were hanging on to that goal, and she hung on for a couple more weeks.

After the final we had a break. I'd signed a three-year contract. I was on top of the world. Then in a pre-season game in Ireland I twisted by back and damaged two discs. I was out for three months. Suddenly I was at the best club in the world, but things were going wrong. I'd never thought of leaving but two years ago I decided it was time to start again; when I requested a transfer, Lou Macari phoned me and asked if I fancied coming up to Celtic. I did and, apart from breaking my leg, it was a good move.