Hailed as one of the greatest football managers of all time, Matt Busby overcame tragedy to lead Manchester United to European Cup glory during a triumphant 25-year reign.
Raised in the mining village of Orbiston, North Lanarkshire, young Matt was playing for Denny Hibs when he caught the eye of Manchester City’s scouts and moved south aged 18. After 200 games at right half – and one appearance in a Scotland shirt – he moved in 1936 to Liverpool, where his playing career was cut short by wartime national service.
During the war Matt served as a football coach in the Army, and when Manchester United needed a manager in 1945 they turned to the 35-year-old. Busby accepted on condition he trained and picked the team, and chose the players to be bought and sold – a level of control unprecedented at the time.
His impact was immediate as the Red Devils won the FA Cup in 1948 and the championship in 1952, and also finished runners-up four times in six years. He then began building a team of talented youngsters – including Duncan Edwards, Bill Foulkes and Jackie Blanchflower – who became known as the ‘Busby Babes’.
Sweeping aside all before them, his young side won the league in both 1956 and 1957, but tragedy struck on 6 February 1958, when the team’s aircraft crashed on the icy runway at Munich Airport. Seven players were killed and Matt himself clung to life for nine weeks.
Despite his grief, he recovered and went on to rebuild the team, moulding the likes of Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton into yet another imperious footballing powerhouse. In 1968, their domination culminated in a famous 4-1 victory against Benfica at Wembley that brought the European Cup to Old Trafford. Matt was knighted soon afterwards.
After leading United to five league championships and two FA Cups, Matt retired in 1971, becoming a director and then president of the club. When he died in 1994 aged 84, a statue was erected in his honour outside Old Trafford, overlooking the road that bears his name.
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