Reds fan Brian Hugo (70), a Mancunian now living in Heysham, recalls the day in 1962 when he met the United team, slept in Noel Cantwell’s bed and even gave the team talk!
I’ve always had a real spirit of adventure and, in September 1962 (aged 21), took the spur-of-the-moment decision to hitchhike to Madrid to watch United in Jose Zaraga’s testimonial match in the Bernabeu.
It took me four days of thumbing it, plus a ferry, to get to Madrid, but the real adventure started when walking down the street I bumped into United goalkeeper David Gaskell. I tapped him on the shoulder and said: "I know who you are." To which he replied: "Well, who are you?" I told him I was a supporter over for the game and was on my way to the Bernabeu to buy a ticket. “It’s sold out," he replied, "but come to the team hotel and we’ll find you a ticket." I couldn’t believe my luck.
With four days of stubble and having had little sleep, the players had to sneak me into the hotel and I then sat in reception, from where I could see the team, chairman Harold Hardman, Matt Busby and three reporters sat around a huge table eating a meal. When they finished they came out to see the crazy fan that had hitchhiked from England to see them play a friendly. They were amazed that all I had with me was a small brown paper carrier bag containing a bar of chocolate, an apple, some bread and a piece of sponge. One of the players pulled out the sponge. "What’s this for?" he said. "It’s my pillow," I replied. Well, they cracked up laughing. "You’re a lunatic," they said.
Captain Noel Cantwell took me under his wing, ordered me a slap-up meal and fired questions at me about my journey? "How did you get over? How much did it cost?" The three reporters were listening in and started writing down what I was saying.
When I finished the meal, Noel said: "You look shattered, do you want a kip? C’mon lads, we’ll smuggle him into the lift." So he got Jack Crompton, Billy Foulkes and some of the bigger lads to stand around me and took me up to the rooms. He told me to crash out on his bed and he’d move in with one of the others, promising to wake me up when it was time to go