CALL THEM Magnificent United, the 11 defiant men of Manchester who tonight made us proud of British football as they pitilessly thrashed Benfica out of the European Cup. In the first 14 unforgettable minutes, United shattered the bemused Eagles of Portugal with three goals of unforgettable glory.
All the goals were composed with a glowing skill and bravely underlined manager Matt Busby's pre-match insistence: "We will play fighting football."
Manchester United did that very thing with moving gallantry until their red shirts appeared to tear through the white barricade of Benfica's packed defence like so many scarlet rockets.
Their magnificence further illuminated Lisbon's fantastic Stadium of Light. Men of lesser courage than United could well have been terrified by the noise rolling down thunderously from the towering galleries in this arena.
Busby's marvels, with superb confidence, ignored the surroundings and scored within six minutes. The crowd who had laughed at the Beatle-cut hair of George Best groaned as United's 19-year-old winger, the smallest man on the field, scored. He met a 35-yard free-kick from Tony Dunne at the far post and outleaped the soaring giants of Benfica to thrash the ball into the net.
The tiny band of Manchester supporters waved their Union Jacks and roared their salute through the Portuguese silence.
And they cheered even more, minutes later, as United built their aggregate lead to 5-2.
The Portuguese snarled in anger as Harry Gregg took a powerful kick upfield to David Herd, who slipped the ball through to Best and this menacing kid again flicked the ball into the corner of the goal.
After 14 minutes the Manchester fans were chanting: "Easy, easy" for the sound reason that United had scored their third goal.
It came from a move of rare splendour, brilliantly composed by Denis Law, Herd and Best, which gave Law a chance to lash the ball gleefully into goal.
John Connelly has seldom played with such authority. And Best so bedevilled the muscular men of Benfica that finally the crowd were compelled to applaud his brilliance and his impudence.
Seven minutes after half-time came a setback for United. Benfica swarmed into the attack and Shay Brennan, trying to pass back to Gregg, slid the ball into his own net. But with 10 minutes to go United were back with a four-goal aggregate lead.
Pat Crerand came storming into the Portuguese penalty area and as the ball came to him, he rocketed it past Pereira.
With two minutes left Bobby Charlton also scored. What a night. What a triumph for Matt Busby.
Benfica: Costa Pereira; Cavem, Cruz, Coluna, Germanio Ferreira, Pinto, Silva Augusto, Eusebio, Torres, Jose Augusto, Simone.
Manchester United: Gregg; Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Law, Charlton, Herd, Connelly.Reuse content