“It’s hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.”
Yes, the times have changed and how, football too has changed quite a lot. Competition has increased many folds in all walks of life; football couldn’t really remain unaffected. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, the world of football was a happier and healthier family – all for one and one for all. Manchester United had great on field rivalries back then too but the mutual respect outshone the hatred empathetically. Relationships blossomed and such great ties between clubs gave birth to amazing tales, which are part of folklore now.
Over the course of decades some of these great sagas get lost in the annals of history; surely such tales are worth a nostalgic reminiscence:
The ‘Real’ Heart Warming Gesture By Madrid
Ask any modern day United fan and none would speak with any great deal of affection towards the mighty club from Spain. In fact, in terms of pure animosity, Real would rank pretty high among United’s European rivals. The gut wrenching season-long pursuit of United’s golden boy – Cristiano Ronaldo, by the Spanish giants soured the taste. If there was any sense of mixed emotions towards the Blancos, now it was dominated by displeasure. United fans do not like Real Madrid. Harsh reality!
Back in the mid 50’s, Real were the top dogs of European football. No one stood a chance; their dominance was complete and absolute. The then United manager – Sir Matt Busby – ventured into sun-bathed picturesque Spain to capture the essence of the capital side in all its glory. What was it that made the ‘all whites’ just so special? Busby was dumbfounded and mesmerized by the brilliance of Los Blancos. He couldn’t wait to convey, to his troops back home in Manchester, about his experiences in the Spanish capital.
There goes a story which claims that Busby was even offered the Madrid job. Bernabeau promised to offer a football paradise. Busby, however, politely turned down the offer and said those famous words – “Manchester is my Heaven.”
However, Busby & the Babes were soon to get a chance to face the all conquering Madrid side in the European Cup, at the semi final stage of the competition. In 1956, the Babes lost 5-3 on aggregate against the likes of Puskas and Di Stefano – some of the game’s all time legends. Nevertheless, United’s young side won a lot of hearts, both in England and Spain, especially in Madrid.
Busby said, “It was a contest between two great teams – a mature side and a young side, and, of course, experience told. But our time will come.”
United’s time looked to have arrived two year later; however, fate intervened in tragic circumstances and the Babes were lost in a heart-breaking moment, that shook the world of football from its root. The Munich air tragedy left thousands mourning in and around Manchester and almost every nook and cranny of the globe.
The year 1958, Real were once again crowned champions of Europe. But Madrid won a lot more that year, something which is precious and yet invaluable – Respect.
Madrid poured out goodwill like none could imagine in today’s mad and self-centred world. Real asked for the trophy in 1958 to be awarded to Manchester United after the disaster. This however, was understandably refused by the Old Trafford club. Madrid dedicated the trophy to Manchester United and more to the Busby Babes.
Madrid then offered holidays in Spain to all the players in a bid to help them recover from the mental trauma. To help United tide over their financial woes, Bernabeau even agreed to play friendlies with them, at half their rate. Real fielded strong sides, so as to attract maximum crowds, and also helped United in developing by playing against strong European opposition.
The Blancos were at their philanthropic best, as they even offered United the legendary Puskas, but United couldn’t sign him due to some absurd FA ruling against non-English speaking players. Di Stefano was also offered for a season-long loan (probably) but United had to turn down the gesture, as they weren’t in a position to afford his wages.
The level of respect was enormous between the two clubs. It’s seemingly hard to fathom such deep rooted sense of responsibility for a rival club in the present day scenario, and it’s surreal. Would such a gesture ever happen in the present day and age? It would be a folly even to expect such deeds. After all, isn’t it all about the money, honey?
Man United’s Homes Away From Home
Old Trafford – the sacred home of the Red Devils, the place where dreams are born and legends are nurtured. Manchester United have, however, called more than one place, their home in the past.
German bombing during the Second World War on 11 March 1941, destroyed much of the stadium of Old Trafford, notably the main stand. United were forced to look for alternatives, when the football league began again after the war. Cross town rivals Manchester City’s home ground ‘Maine Road’ was to be United’s home for the next few years, as Old Trafford was rebuilt after the disaster. The Reds and the Blues co-existed amicably in those times. Imagine the carnage in present day world. All hell would break lose if such a scenario ever presented itself again. Blasphemy – for the supporters of both the clubs in current scenario, but again another prime example of coming together for a greater cause.
If that left a rather unpleasant feeling in the stomach, now for matters that might be a little too impure for some die hard Reds around the world. Yes, even Anfield has hosted their much despised rivals from Manchester, as the home side albeit for a single game against the Gunners. The year 1971 saw this once in a lifetime phenomenon, when a Manchester United side walked out at Anfield to a rapturous applause from the Kop End, cheering them on to the final whistle.
In 1971 United were banned from playing their first two home games at Old Trafford, due to reports of hooliganism. Subsequently, Anfield had to be prepared for the Red Devils’ home game, as they took on Arsenal. United, the home side won 3-1 at Anfield. Sickening for both set of supporters to live with this truth, there might be some wishing they never knew about this fact, well apologies if we ruined it for you.
Football hooliganism was at its absolute best (or rather worst) in the late 70’s. Unfortunately, United had a few of those amongst their ranks. As a punishment for their fans’ behaviour, in the first leg away to St Etienne, in a European Cup Winners Cup tie, Man United had to play the return leg at least 200 kilometres away from Manchester. Plymouth hosted the game, as United’s home and the Red Devils won the home leg 2-0 and progressed. No prizes for guessing the name of Pymouth’s stadium – ‘Home Park.’ History seems so convenient at times, isn’t it?
Football in those golden times bought people closer like never before; somehow that spirit seems to have deserted the beautiful game or maybe it’s just the nostalgia that makes the old glitter like gold.