February Chief Scout Joe Armstrong, Assistant Manager Jimmy Murphy

February
6th, 1958: a moment frozen in time. Not only for fans of Manchester
United, but also for the footballing fraternity. It is often said that
adversity brings out the best in people and Sir Matt Busby may well be
the embodiment of this proverb. The pain of losing a person is
irreversible, and this man had just lost 8 of his beloved ‘Busby Babes’
in one of the most horrific moments in the history of not only the
sport, but also humanity in general.Manchester
United were the frontrunners to lift the European Cup. They had bowed
out to eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-finals the year before
and had just won the English First Division the year before. The Brits
had won their quarter final showdown against Red Star Belgrade of
Yugoslavia and had advanced yet again to the semi-finals, this time with
the aim of going all the way. Come to think of it, they should not have
been in the competition in the first place really. The Football League
and especially its secretary, Mr Alan Hardaker was always of the opinion
that it was best English clubs did not participate in European
Competition at the time. But Sir Matt and the then FA Chairman Stanley
Rous defied odds and entered the club in the competition.Little
did they know God had other plans for them ‘Busby Babes’. These players
were not bought from outside clubs, instead handpicked and trained by
Manchester United coaches and staff. These were fruits borne by the
expert tutelage of Chief Scout Joe Armstrong, Assistant Manager Jimmy
Murphy and of course Sir Matt himself. Decades of endless hours on the
training pitches and religious practice had made them a model of
perfection and human machines which others strived to follow and become.
All this gone, in an instant when the pilots of that ill-fated British
European Airways flight 609 decided for the third and final time to take
off despite the treacherous, slush covered runway of the Munich Riem
Airport in erstwhile West Germany.Sir
Matt himself survived the disaster, and so did Duncan Edwards. But
unlike his gaffer, he was not as fortunate and eventually succumbed to
his injuries a few days later in hospital. Again, God wanted Sir Matt to
stay, and this would result in him making a full recovery despite
spending over two months in hospital. It is said his last rites were
read twice.A
distraught Matt Busby was ready to leave football and settle away from
the game but was encouraged to stay by his beloved wife Jean, who told
him “You know Matt, the lads would have wanted you to carry on.”And
what happened afterwards is something which is etched in the club’s
DNA. Like the Phoenix, the club rose from the abysmal depths of despair
to the high winds of success. It did take time mind you, and the journey
was one of pain, sweat, tears and eventually joy. The first match after
the disaster was won 3–0 against Sheffield Wednesday by a team which
was a mix of reserve and youth team players. The team even won the first
leg of the Champions Cup semi-final against AC Milan at Old Trafford,
only to go down 4–0 at the San Siro. All this while Jimmy Murphy was
temporary manager.Sir
Matt, ever unrelenting and persistent created another generation of the
Busby Babes: this time with George Best and Dennis Law. Sir Bobby
Charlton, who was also a survivor of the tragedy formed the troika which
famously came to be known as ‘The Holy Trinity’. It was only a matter
of time when this great club got up and running again, and this
incredible journey culminated with United winning the European Cup a
decade later, beating Benfica in the finals.Not
a moment goes by when we do not remember the ones lost in the mishap.
One can only shudder in sadness when thinking what might have been had
the pilots decided to stall the take-off on that fateful February
afternoon. Maybe we would not have gotten this forever etched belief
that anything can happen to this great club had we not experienced the
lifelong grief of losing many of our own in one act of unkindness from
the lord almighty.Sir
Alex may have transformed the club’s image during his reign at the helm
to one of an absolute powerhouse and financial giant, but he would
still be slightly in the shadow of the great Sir Matt who defied laws
and rationale and built the club all the way from the very scratch. He
lost 8 of his gems but created many more. He gave us this never-ending
belief that we will not die, we will not succumb. There is a reason why
there is a clock at Old Trafford which is frozen at just a little over 3
o’clock. It is to always tell people to never forget, the ethos of this
great football club.This
belief came a full circle on that magical night in May 1999 at the Camp
Nou, Barcelona The Red Devils were trailing the German giants Bayern
Munich 0–1 with the game almost over. 2 goals from them in injury time
led their fans to delirium and frenzy and only fortified the belief that
if you believe, anything can happen. Yes, Manchester United had reached
the promised land. Yes, they had done the unthinkable and recreated the
magic. But I will always believe till the day I die, that Sir Matt and
his Busby Babes had us covered all the way from heaven. They had rubbed
their aura onto some of our players and went on to play in heaven.On
February 6th, 2018, it will be 60 years to the day that almost the
entire city of Manchester and millions of die hard Man Utd fans will
remember those lost in this tragedy. These are the martyrs whose souls
have made this great football club what it is today. The wreaths and
flowers will embody the pain which has still not gone away, and which
will always be embraced for times to come. The Busby babes will descend
upon the pitch at Old Trafford to witness first hand the reverence they
carry in the hearts of the ever so faithful Mancunians. An example will
be set to the world, to always Believe.To Sir Matt, the man who gave us our DNA. An ode, from a human being first and then a devout Manchester United faithful.PS-
For my brothers in Chapocoense, “From the Ashes, thou shall rise”.
There will be pain and there will be suffering, but you shall too rise
like the Phoenix and shine bright.