Football: No shame as tears flow for United

Action Replay: Wednesday 15 MAY 1968

As Manchester United prepare to face Juventus for a place in the European Cup Final on Wednesday, we recall the memorable night in 1968 when Matt Busby's side travelled to Madrid with a slender one-goal lead to battle for a place in that year's final at Wembley. Desmond Hackett, one of the most colourful football writers of his generation, reported for the Daily Express.

A TEAM called Bobby Charlton battled last night into the European Cup final at Wembley on May 29.

The team, otherwise known as Manchester United, had played out one of the most bitterly fought games in the history of European football. To we privileged ringsiders it was a night of searing nerves and - I don't mind admitting it - damn-near tears.

Why should I be ashamed of tears when Matt Busby, the best-loved manager in football, himself wept unashamedly? After 11 years of campaigning, his team, his glorious Manchester United, had become the first English side to reach the European Cup final.

There was emotion, too, from Bobby Charlton who, when this night of stress had ended, collapsed to the ground over which United had spread the glory of English soccer.

It had looked in the first half as if Real would win handsomely. They had taken a 3-1 lead - 3-2 overall - and the Bernabeu stadium was in fiesta. But we got the message as soon as the second half started, that Un ited were still full of fighting soccer when brave Bobby came out with socks down to his ankles.

He was a general of glorious calibre, calming, soothing, and urging on a team that, for a spell, appeared to have lost faith in themselves. I was here last Wednesday, in the same seat, watching England thrash Spain. I thought that would be the height of my English pride, but that game had nothing to match tonight's splendour.

There were 120,000 fans. The noise would have shattered the courage of any other player but those of United. I have never known such sound and fury. United's plan was to contain Real for the first 20 minutes - and this they did with a high grade of competence. But after 31 minutes Real scored.

A highly suspect free-kick was lavished upon them. It was taken by Amancio and Pirri headed powerfully into goal. After 41 minutes the oldest man in European football, 35-year-old Francisco Gento, glided delicately along the left wing, evaded four fierce tackles, and scored a goal of superb brilliance.

The fireworks were exploding still when Zoco took the ball from Brian Kidd's feet and put it into his own goal. With the last kick of the first half Amancio raced through to score and put Real into a 3-2 overall lead. I was sufficiently churlish to think that United were playing without bravery. They made me a grim and false prophet.

After 72 minutes George Best put over a cross and David Sadler headed in to make it 3-3 on aggregate. Five minutes later Best cut through and who should score the winning goal but Old Man Bill Foulkes.

There were 14 minutes to go, but they belonged to United. They controlled Real, they silenced the crowd, and those who had not moved away stayed to applaud.

Matt Busby, with tears streaming down his face, said afterwards: "This is without doubt United's greatest night - our finest hour." Last word from Velazquez, Real's inside forward: "I hope United win the final. I would rather they won it than any other team - except, of course, Real."

Real Madrid: Betancort; Gonzalez, Sanchis, Pirri, Zunzunegui, Zoco, Perez, Amancio, Grosso, Velazquez, Gento.

Manchester United: Stepney: Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston.

United went on to win the final against Benfica of Portugal, who had qualified by beating Juventus 1-0 in Turin in the second leg of their semi-final. An omen for United on Wednesday, perhaps.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform