Football: Where are they now... from Stepney to Bestie

Norman Fox traces the footsteps of a legendary team

UNLIKE MATT BUSBY, who saw the winning of the 1968 European Cup as the culmination of his career and the moment to relinquish his coaching, win or lose on Wednesday Alex Ferguson intends continuing, for which Manchester United can be grateful. Within three years of United beating Benfica at Wembley, Busby had to be asked back to fight off the club's decline. Wilf McGuinness succeeded Sir Matt, followed by Frank O'Farrell. Neither had his presence or wiliness and the 1968 team began to creak and break up. For a while George Best continued to play beyond the control of any defender but he was soon to be mastered by alcohol and gambling, while many of the others simply became too old. Yet the team of 1968 retain a bond which will be reinforced when the majority meet again as guests of United in Barcelona. So what have they done in the last 31 years?

Alex Stepney: In the final moments of normal time in the 1968 final this underestimated goalkeeper denied Eusebio the chance of giving Benfica victory. Busby said it was a "great save". Modestly, Stepney said: "It went into my hands." He had joined United from Chelsea, where Tommy Docherty gave him only one first- team match. United offered him 535. Early in the 1973-74 season his pen-alty taking made him leading scorer. Left United for the US, returning to join Altrincham. Took a pub in Stockport, then became a transport manager. Invited to do scouting work for Manchester City by Alan Ball, he remains the club's goalkeeping coach.

Seamus `Shay' Brennan: A former United apprentice winger, he established himself in defence after the Munich disaster. Once in the first team he was immovable, making 355 appearances and building a reputation as a fine, dependable tackler. In 1970 he moved to the League of Ireland club Waterford; though he won 19 caps for the Republic of Ireland, he was Manchester born. Married an Irish girl and remained in Waterford, where he runs a parcel delivery company. Now semi-retired after a triple heart by-pass operation.

Tony Dunne: The defensive inspiration behind United's victory over Benfica. Outstanding in the championship winning sides of 1965 and 1967, he finished his career at the club after 12 years' service. Left United in 1973 to join Bolton Wanderers. Moved to the United States where he ended his playing career and his involvement with football, coming back to run a golf driving range near Altrincham.

Pat Crerand: Ironically, he could have won a European Cup winner's medal earlier by staying with Celtic, with whom he started his career. But he opted to join United in 1963, becoming a fine midfield ball winner and provider. He eventually became a member of the club's coaching staff, then assistant manager. He left to become Northampton Town's manager but gave up football to run a pub in Altrincham. Works for Piccadilly Radio, does after-dinner speaking and hosts VIP events at Old Trafford. Lives in Sale.

Bill Foulkes: Over 18 seasons with United, he won not only a European Cup medal but four championships and an FA Cup medal. Escaped the Munich crash with minor injuries and played a week later. His goal in the European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid put United into the final in which he was also captain. Retired in 1970 to coach with United staff before, briefly, managing Witney. Coached in the US, Norway and Japan. Now semi- retired. When persuaded off the golf course he places young Japanese players with British teams. Also a Sale resident.

Nobby Stiles: Remembered for his gap-toothed grin after England's World Cup win and his unrelenting tenacity for club and country. Salford born, he made his first-team debut at 18. Transferred to Middlesbrough in 1971. Bobby Charlton, later manager of Preston, invited him to join. Surprisingly, the combination failed. He, too, managed Preston and assisted Johnny Giles at West Brom. Went to the US before becoming a United junior team coach. Now so booked up on the dinner speakers' circuit that he sends apologies for missing the reunion.

George Best: Undoubtedly the '68 team's most sensational player. Although world- famous for his beautifully balanced ball control at speed, he also had bottle... too much of it at the end. The booze took over, but his career at United spanned 10 years. Once out of Busby's influence he was exploited and lost. Drifted into Scottish football with Hibernian. In physical decline, he played for Fulham, Stockport and in the US, where he enthusiastically entered the easy beach life. Gradually rebuilt his own life to become a lively television personality. Now living in London, he continues to do a lot of media work while gladly letting David Beckham be hounded, as he used to be, by photographers and gossip columnists.

Brian Kidd: Scorer of the crucial third goal in the '68 final, which for a Manchester-born player celebrating his 19th birthday remained the highlight of a long United career. Strong and quick, he took defenders' attention away from Charlton and Law. Moved to Arsenal (77 appearances), then Manchester City, Everton, Bolton and to the US. Coached at Barrow and Preston before returning to help with United's Football in the Community project. Scouted for Alex Ferguson, and, in 1991, became his assistant. Stayed until offered the job of Blackburn Rovers' manager.

Bobby Charlton: With Pele, perhaps the most familiar name in world football. He joined United in the early 50s and proved a youth team star. Had just established himself in the first team when he was injured in the Munich crash. Jimmy Murphy, Busby's unsung assistant, rebuilt the side around him. World Cup final winner before leaving United in 1974 to become the unsuccessful manager of Preston. A director of United. Currently travelling extensively for England's 2006 World Cup bid. Set up the Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools, helped Japan in their World Cup bid and Manchester in their campaign to get the Commonwealth Games. Has a travel company. Lives in Hale.

David Sadler: Another United player who left the club to join Preston. An England amateur international with Maidstone and full international with a more illustrious United, he had 11 seasons at Old Trafford. His cool-headed defending was more valuable than his occasional periods as a useful striker. Now a building society branch manager in Hale, he is also involved with Bobby Charlton in corporate hospitality. Secretary of the Association of Former Manchester United Players.

John Aston: His father had played for the club, so John Jnr could hardly go elsewhere. But it was not influence that turned him from one of the club's Youth Cup winners into an unassuming but useful first-team winger, such a contrast to Best. Rev-ived career after a broken leg by moving to Luton in 1972. Also played for Mansfield and Blackburn. After retiring, took over pet shop in Stalybridge.

Denis Law: Missed the '68 final because of a knee operation. But it was the attacking combination of himself, Charlton and Best that made United special. Played for Huddersfield, Manchester City and Torino before joining United. Was watching TV in 1973 when he heard Tommy Docherty had given him a free transfer. Got his own back by rejoining City and sending United into Second Division. Business interests, radio pundit and after-dinner speaker.

Francis Burns: His career was cruelly interrupted by injuries, not least in '68 when after playing in the majority of United's European matches at full-back he missed the final. Moved to Southampton then Preston before going to Shamrock Rovers. Now lives in Australia, working for a radio station in Perth but has been invited over for the final.

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