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Monday, February 4, 2008

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Sir Matt Busby

Nationality: Scottish
Manager From: 01 Oct 1945
Years as Manager: 26
Football League Titles: 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1967
FA Cup: 1948, 1963
European Cup: 1968
FA Charity Shield: 1952, 1956, 1957
FA Charity Shield Joint holders: 1965, 1967

The man who was to become one of English football's greatest-ever managers was born in Scotland, in the village of Orbiston, Lanarkshire, on 26 May 1909.

As a player, he represented two English clubs. He joined Manchester City on 11 February 1928, and made his debut the following year against Middlesbrough. Busby was then transferred to Liverpool for a fee of £8,000 in March 1936.

Busby became United's first boss after the war, having turned down the job of assistant manager at Liverpool. He accepted the position on 19 February 1945, and then joined the club full-time

on his demobilisation from the armed forces in October 1945. In doing so he filled a post left vacant since the resignation of Scott Duncan in 1937 and temporarily filled by club secretary Walter Crickmer.

Following demob, Busby took charge of a club with a bomb-damaged stadium and a £15,000 overdraft. His first signing for United was Jimmy Murphy, his great assistant manager who served the club until 1971. Together they created United's first great post-war team built around the defensive capabilities of Johnny Carey, John Aston and Allenby Chilton and the attacking skills of Charlie Mitten, Jack Rowley and Stan Pearson.

United were FA Cup winners in 1948, defeating Blackpool 4-2. Then, after finishing runners-up four times in 1947-49 and 1951, Busby's men brought the title to Old Trafford in 1952.

Far from being blinded by their success, Busby and Murphy had the foresight to plan ahead and prepare for the day when their first great team would need replacing. The club's scouting system was expanded and reorganised and in the early 1950s, the new youth policy bore its first fruit as Jeff Whitefoot, Jackie Blanchflower and Roger Byrne stepped up to the first team. By 1953 a new team was being blooded in the First Division as

Bill Foulkes, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Liam Whelan, Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards all broke through. League success soon followed as this new young side, soon christened the 'Busby Babes', won the League title in both 1956 and 1957 and reached the FA Cup final in 1957.

Busby was still looking to the future, trailblazing the way for English clubs by entering the European Cup in 1956/57 - initially against the wishes of the Football League. United reached the semi-finals, losing to eventual winners Real Madrid.

The following season, 1957/58, bristled with promise and United were still challenging in all three competitions by February when disaster struck. On 6 February 1958, the aeroplane bringing the team home from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade crashed after refuelling in Munich. Twenty-one people were killed, including eight of Busby's players - Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan. Three club officials also perished - secretary Walter Crickmer, trainer Tom Curry and coach Bert Whalley.

Busby almost lost his life as well - he was twice given the last rites while lying gravely ill in a German hospital. Fortunately,

he survived and returned to Manchester 71 days after the crash. In the meantime, Jimmy Murphy - who missed the tragedy because of his commitments as manager of the Welsh national side - brilliantly guided a patched-up team to an emotionally charged FA Cup Final. Bolton Wanderers beat United 2-0 at Wembley.

After taking up the managerial reigns again in August 1958, Busby began to add some big money purchases to his homegrown talent. The likes of Albert Quixall, Noel Cantwell, Denis Law and Pat Crerand joined United in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This group of players reached the FA Cup final in 1963 and beat Leicester City 3-1 to claim the club's first trophy after Munich.

League titles followed in 1965 and 1967, giving Busby the chance to conquer Europe in the following seasons. In 1965/66, United reached the semi-finals, just as they had done in 1956/57 and 1957/58. But in 1967/68 they went further, to the final at Wembley where they faced Portuguese side Benfica.

On another night of great emotion, United triumphed 4-1 after extra-time to win the European Cup for Busby. It was a fitting tribute to the players and staff killed and injured 10 years before and was Busby's

crowning achievement as United manager. They almost retained the Cup in 1968/69, before bowing out to AC Milan in the semi-final.

Busby retired at the end of the '68/69 season, but stayed on as general manager while Wilf McGuinness became the man in charge of the team on a day-to-day basis. The new arrangement lasted little more than a year - on 28 December 1970, Busby was invited by the Directors to return to his old job and replace McGuinness until the end of the season.

A respected figure throughout his career, Busby was awarded the CBE in 1958 and made the 66th Freeman of Manchester in 1967. In 1968, he was named Manager of the Year and was knighted following United's European Cup triumph.

In 1972 he was made a Knight Commander of St. Gregory by the Pope. He became President of Manchester United in 1980, was elected Vice-President of the Football League in 1982 and went on to become a life member. In 1993 Warwick Road North, the road which runs past the front of Old Trafford, was renamed Sir Matt Busby Way in honour of the man described as 'Mr Manchester United'.

In addition to managing United, Busby also guided the British Olympic football team to a

semi-final place in the 1948 Olympics and in 1958 was manager of Scotland, giving an 18 year-old by the name of Denis Law his first cap.

Sir Matt Busby died on 20 January 1994 at Alexandra Hospital, Cheadle, after a short illness. His funeral a week later saw thousands line the streets of Manchester as his cortege drove from Chorlton to Old Trafford and finally to Manchester's Southern Cemetery. Tributes to Sir Matt came from around the world and supporters of many different clubs sent thousands of shirts, wreaths, pictures and scarves to create a multi-coloured memorial. A bronze statue of Sir Matt was unveiled on 27 April 1996 at the Scoreboard End of Old Trafford as Manchester United remembered the man who epitomised club.

Five years after Busby's death, the modern United side emulated his greatest feat by winning the European Cup. Poignantly, the date of that triumph, 26 May 1999, would have been Matt's 90th birthday. Read more...

Gill confident of fitting tribute

United chief executive David Gill is confident the club will deliver a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in the Munich air crash 50 years ago this week.

Twenty-three people, including eight players and three club officials, died in the tragedy on 6 February 1958. A number of events have been organised to mark the anniversary, both on Wednesday and at Sunday's Manchester derby match at Old Trafford.

The centrepiece of the commemorations will be the unveiling of a free, permanent exhibition of the Busby Babes in the South Stand tunnel - to be renamed Munich Tunnel - on Wednesday. A special memorial service will be conducted by club chaplain Reverend John Boyers in the Manchester Suite to coincide with the time of crash at 3.04pm.

"We've tried to make sure we deal with things around the anniversary appropriately and compassionately," explained Gill. "We spoke to those who were directly affected by the crash such as Sir Bobby [Charlton], as well as people who know the club and its history intimately like [club secretary] Ken Ramsden and [former United correspondent] David Meek.

"We formed a committee and debated various ideas, taking into account everyone's thoughts and feelings about what the disaster meant to people at the time and also what it means to the club today."

Following Wednesday's events, the attention turns to Sunday's Manchester derby during which the United players will wear a one-off 1950s style kit, free from sponsorship and numbered 1-11. City are also planning to wear a special kit, created specifically for the match.

Every supporter in the ground, including the visiting fans, will receive a memento of the occasion. A minute's silence will be held prior to the 1.30pm kick-off and Gill is confident it will remain exactly that - silent.

"It wasn't just Manchester United that was affected by the crash, it had a massive impact on both the city of Manchester and the world of football," explained the Reds' chief.

"We, therefore, hope and believe the minute's silence [before the game] will be observed appropriately." Read more...

Ron will stay a wide boy

Alex Ferguson will resist the temptation to make his top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo an out-and-out striker. The Manchester United boss feels his threat on the flank is more vital than his menace in the middle. Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez have formed a deadly partnership up front in the absence of injured striker Louis Saha - while wing wizard Ronaldo terrifies full- backs, lays on crosses and has still scored 27 times. Boss Ferguson said: "There have been occasions, especially when Saha was out and we were relying on Rooney and Tevez, where we’ve considered playing Ronaldo through the middle. He would be a great threat but if you take him away from the wing you lack penetration."
The Sun