Manchester United’s Premier League clash against Wolves at the weekend could be marred by Anti-Glazer protests in the second half. While the club’s current ownership is doing little to take the club back to the top, it might not be the best time to stage a walk-out. While the purpose may be very valid, the timing of it isn’t.
United are at a stage when you can’t be sure of betting for or against them. While there is assurance for what your bets might lead to for some other clubs in the Premier League, but United’s inconsistency makes them a very tough one. The club has been going one step forward and two steps back on a regular basis, which is why efirbet.com is pricing them out of a Champions League spot this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men sustained a loss to Burnley recently, days after losing to Liverpool. A form like that doesn’t exactly make anyone favourites for a top-four spot, leading to United’s odds for that taking a dent. But the game against Wolves will allow them a huge chance to get back on track.
It will be the club’s only home game around the time when the club pays a tearful tribute to the Munich Air Disaster from 1958. The legacy of the Busby Babes has been an inevitable part of the club over the last few decades. So much so that it continues to inspire generations of fans that still look back on that moment in club’s history with a tear in their eye.
A lot of those tears could root from how things could have been if the disaster never struck in the afternoon of that freezing Munich day on the 6th of February in 1958. The Busby Babes certainly did leave behind their footprints in the sands of time, but it could have been so much different. They had captured the imagination of a whole city which was emerging out of some dark times after the Second World War.
If nothing like that dreadful incident had transpired at the Munich-Reim airport, many of those Busby Babes could have gone onto becoming heroes of a generation. Arguably, a certain 21-year-old could have gone onto be something more. That 21-year-old was Duncan Edwards.
Edwards’ sheer tenacity can be embodied by the manner in which he survived 13 days after the British European Airways charter plane had slipped off the slush in Munich, killing eight of United’s first-team players. It was a surprise to many that Edwards had survived and had been taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital- like others.
Despite the tragedy, there was a belief that Edwards would soon rise up from the multiple injuries and return to the pitch to lead United to glory. Edwards symbolised hope and fight. Even Sir Bobby Charlton knew that if Duncan survived, United survived.
Charlton told the Independent back in 2008: “In those first days after the crash it seemed that Duncan was the key to everything. If he survived, so might we all in our spirit and our willingness to fight on. Of course, we would always grieve for the lads who had gone, great players and men we loved, but Duncan seemed to go beyond everything. You see, he was so good; when he was around you thought anything was possible.”
Indeed, the doctors were amazed that Edwards had lasted so long in the face of adversity. The fact that he survived for 13 long days was everything anyone needed to know about the 21-year-old.
The boy from Dudley was at United since his very young days. While playing for the England Schoolboys, he had become the attraction of many major clubs including United. When a United scout called Jack O’Brien had watched Edwards in a Schoolboys game, he wrote back to Sir Matt Busby saying: “Have today seen a 12-year-old schoolboy who merits special watching. His name is Duncan Edwards, of Dudley. Instructions please.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers did want Edwards at the of 14- when he had captained the England Schoolboys on a consistent basis. But United had coach Bert Whalley go down to Dudley personally and get Edwards sign the contract. The then 14-year-old admitted to always having United as his only option at that point.
The fact that Edwards’ United debut came at the age of 16 against Cardiff City wasn’t a surprise to many. The young midfielder earned a name because of a build that seemed way beyond someone of his age. He could dominate games using that physical attribute and despite that, he had an immensely talented passing ability. More than anything, he had a level head.
Busby’s assistant manager Jimmy Murphy described him as: “the Koh-i-Noor diamond among our crown jewels. But he was an unspoiled boy to the end, his head the same size it had been from the start. Even when he had won his first England cap but was still eligible for our youth team, he used to love turning out with the rest of the youngsters. He just loved to play anywhere and with anyone.”
Busby himself knew that Edwards was a player who thrived on the big occasions. He was made for them and he had the tenacity for them. Charlton described him as being ‘hard as nails’ and someone who had a ‘fantastic football brain’. In many regards, Edwards wasn’t just a complete player. He was a complete athlete, that too at a very tender age.
By the time Edwards had won the FA Youth Cup in 1953, he had already made his first-team debut. Busby was always keen on bringing through the club’s youngsters in the fold and Edwards became one of those that he brought up, along with Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet.
It was in the 1954-55 season that Edwards became a regular in the first-team. So much so that the youngster earned a call-up to the England national team. While the call-up came despite him not impressing in the England B game, but Edwards soon became a regular in the national side and was expected to be a vital player for the Three Lions in the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Not just that, but he was seen as a future England captain too.
Busby ‘s young team was thriving and had become the heartbeat of not just the city, but of the whole country. The freedom that Busby had given them was bringing the best out of them, helping United win the First Division title in 1956 and 1957. Edwards was the driving force for the team, using his completeness to provide some thrust in midfield.
While the team was reaping domestic trophies, the European success was always eluding them on a consistent basis. The 1956-57 season had seen the inexperienced and still blossoming United go out in the semi-final at the hands of eventual champions Real Madrid. There was a feeling at United that reaching European glory would be a cherry on the cake for this fantastic young side.
It was in that hunt for European success that Edwards and co had travelled to Belgrade to take on Red Star in the second-leg of the European Cup quarter-final. After winning the first-leg by a 2-1 margin, the Busby Babes held Red Star to a tough 3-3 draw to make it to the semi-final. A tough game against Milan awaited in the semi-final.
The city of Manchester was sapped off all joy when the news of the crash broke. It was like the world, for the city had come crashing down in a heap. The city had lost its heroes- the heroes that made them smile after years of decline. They had represented the work-ethic that the city is known for, despite being so young.
While Jimmy Murphy’s efforts were crucial saving United from potentially closing down, there is still a feeling that Edwards could have gone onto be one of the greatest players in the game. The legendary Terry Venables has even admitted to how Edwards could’ve led England to the World Cup in 1966 and not Bobby Moore.
Former United boss Tommy Docherty has also hailed Edwards as the most complete player he’s ever seen- more complete than the likes of Pele, George Best or the duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
That sort of praise says a lot, considering how young Edwards was. Murphy’s praise about his very sound attitude shows that he had that maturity which could have set him apart from others. That is why, Edwards, perhaps was the not just the best talent United have ever had. But he was also the most unique talent he’s ever had.
And when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men lock horns with Wolves at Old Trafford, it is players like Edwards who deserve the tribute. The current generation can only draw inspiration, even when the world back then was much different.