And The Phoenix Rose Again

Phoenix rose

Andrew Embling takes a look back at the day Manchester United became the first English side to lift the European Cup.

Ten years on from the tragedy in Munich, Manchester United stood on the threshold of history.

European%20Cup%20Final%201968%20Reprint%20smallNo English club had won the European Cup, but United were one game away and that game was being held on home soil at Wembley.

Standing in their way was a Benfica side blessed with the great Eusabio, one of the giants of world football.

But United could boast their own star names, including World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton.

United captain Charlton was one of those in the side who had survived the Munich Air Crash in February 1958, a team that had been cut down before their time and who would surely have won the European Cup long before this day a decade later.

Perhaps that youthful side would have gone on to rival the great Real Madrid teams of the 1950s – that we will never know – but now was United’s chance to make history and in the process exorcise some of those demons of Munich.

Matt Busby, who himself survived that fateful day in Germany, was unable to call upon the talents of striker Denis Law, the Scotsman failing to recover from a knee injury.

2000px-Benfica_vs_Man_Utd_1968-05-29_svgBut United’s way has always been to give youth a chance, so Busby turned to a young man who was celebrating his 19th birthday – Brian Kidd.

Kidd was to play his part in the drama of the final, along with the likes of Charlton and George Best.

The first half failed to produce any goals, although Eusabio hit the bar for Benfica, whilst David Sadler missed a golden chance for United having been put through by Kidd’s clever pass.

But the game came alive eight minutes into the second half when Charlton found himself on the end of a Sadler cross to give United the lead with a rare header.

Best had the ball in the net only to see it chalked off for offside, then led the Benfica defence a merry dance before forcing keeper Henrique to save, Sadler unable to turn in the rebound.

But just as it seemed United would go on to win the trophy, the Portuguese champions levelled with 15 minutes remaining through Jaime Graca.

The final looked to be going Benfica’s way late on when Eusabio found himself bearing down on Alex Stepney’s goal, but the United keeper made a brilliant save to deny Benfica’s talisman – Eusabio showing great sportsmanship as he applauded the save – and the game headed into extra time.

It needed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and three minutes into the extra period United took control.

George Best latched on to Stepney’s kick and ran behind the Benfica defence before rounding the keeper and rolling the ball into the empty net to restore United’s advantage.

That goal put United in the ascendency, but they were to be in dreamland just a minute later when Kidd added his own indelible mark on the final with a header which found the net at the second attempt.

Charlton added the icing on the cake when he fired into the far corner to make it three unanswered goals for United in just eight minutes.

It was enough to give United a 4-1 victory and create another piece of football history; their rise from the ashes of Munich to the pinnacle of European football was complete at last.

Thank You For Reading and Please Add Any Comments About This Wonderful Night

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