Classic tie brings memories flooding back for Foulkes

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The Independent Football

Bill Foulkes will always hold a special place in Manchester United history as a Munich air-crash survivor and the man whose unlikely goal took Matt Busby's team to their first European Cup final.

For 18 years Foulkes, now 71, was at the heart of United's defence and was the only United player to appear in both of their European Cup semi-final legs in Madrid. He describes "the unique bond between the clubs" and himself as the "cripple who beat Real Madrid" and still considers the goal he scored in Real's Bernabeu on May 16, 1968 as "the greatest moment of my career".

In 1957, Foulkes had experienced a 3-1 defeat. A 2-2 draw back at Old Trafford failed to salvage United's dreams. Eleven years later Foulkes and Busby's rebuilt side following the Munich tragedy were back in Madrid with a 1-0 lead from the first semi-final, but this time they clawed their way to a 3-3 draw with Foulkes scoring the winner.

All those memories will come back for Foulkes when United take on Real Madrid again, in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"After Munich, that's when Real Madrid came to help us," Foulkes said. "They became special friends because they kept playing a series of friendly games against us which helped our finances enormously. There were huge crowds and it got our team to start thinking about the level of football we were facing. Not only did we get the gate receipts but we learned so much from them on the pitch in those friendlies."

Foulkes recalled the night at the Bernabeu in 1968 when his goal sent United through to the final. He had set off from his own area to support yet another George Best run.

He said: "I wasn't going very fast, I'd got cruciate knee trouble so it was a limping run down the middle of the pitch – I wasn't that mobile at the best of times. I remember Nobby Stiles saying as I went past him, 'where the hell are you going', but I kept going.

"Denis [Law] wasn't playing, Bobby [Charlton] wasn't having that great a time and Brian [Kidd] was still just a youngster. We had no strike force really, we'd got an own goal and then David Sadler's effort from a corner.

"Bestie set off and I made the run really to try to get people off George's back because he'd been double-marked all night and they'd been kicking him.

"I got to the box, he reached the line and I was praying he wouldn't look up because if he did he'd see it was me and never give me the ball.

"But he did look to see me, I was the only United player anywhere near the box. I checked in, came out a couple of strides and he just gave me a beautifully-weighted pass and all I had to do was put it into the opposite corner with the outside of my right foot."