mercoledì 12 dicembre 2007

A United Decade

Manchester United: 1960/69
After building one of the greatest teams seen in England, Matt Busby had to start all over again at the start of the 1960's. The Munich air disaster had robbed him, and football, of some of the era's greatest players. But once the great manager had recovered from his own injuries, he set about building another side to take the world by storm.
Dennis Viollet was one of the leading names within this team. In 1959/60, the Munich survivor broke Jack Rowley's club record by scoring 32 goals in one league season. The team in total scored 102, but they conceded 80 and finished in seventh place.
Viollet wasn't the Munich survivor to enjoy a great Old Trafford career; others included Bill Foulkes, and Bobby Charlton, who came through the club's youth ranks to break goalscoring records for club and country. Nobby Stiles also rose through the ranks, while Denis Law came via a record £115,000 transfer from Torino.
United's form was erratic at the start of the decade, while new names settled in, but then everything came together with a run to Wembley for the 1962/63 FA Cup Final. Busby's new-look team beat Leicester 3-1, with two goals from David Herd and one by Law.
The next season saw United build on the foundations of FA Cup success to challenge for the title – finishing second, only four points behind the champions Liverpool, to whom they lost both at home and away. The 1962/63 season was also notable for the signing and debut of George Best, the young man from Belfast who would become football's first superstar. His incredible skill, pace and control left opponents in knots, making him a hit with the fans, while his filmstar looks made him a hit with the ladies.
In 1964/65, the famous trio of Best, Law and Charlton took United to new heights. They won the League Championship, pipping Leeds on goal difference, and reached the semi-finals of the European Fairs Cup and the FA Cup. Law plundered goals galore and was named the European Footballer of the Year.
The title-winning team seemed to be the finished article, but they finished a disappinting fourth the following season, and exited both the FA and European Cups in the semi-finals. The season's highlight had been the 5-1 away thrashing of Benfica in the European Cup quarter-finals, when Best had been in blistering form.
In 1966/67 United were crowned League Champions again and another season of European Cup Football was guaranteed. This time, United would go all the way, beating Benfica in the final at Wembley. Jaime Graca equalised Charlton's headed goal to take the game into extra-time, but further goals from Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton gave United their first European Cup. Just 10 years after Sir Matt had seen his dream team destroyed, he had performed the impossible. He was knighted soon afterwards.
The following season saw the European Champions finish eleventh in the league and fail to win a trophy. They also lost the World Club Championship 2-1 on aggregate to Estudiantes. Despite the anti-climatic end to the decade, United fans could feel delighted with the 1960's. Few could begrudge Sir Matt Busby's retirement in 1969, after all he'd achieved.

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