Sir Alex Ferguson admires the qualities which enabled Sir Matt Busby to rebuild United after the Munich air crash decimated his talented young team...
Obviously the crash had a huge impact on everyone - and Scottish people particularly, with Matt Busby being such a respected figure.
Matt had gathered a great affection for the way his United side were playing, but the esteem in which he was held up there wasn’t just down to that alone - it was also because of how he’d built his teams. I’d gone to see them as a teenager in 1953 play in the Coronation Cup against Rangers and Celtic - but United were the main attraction.
What we see at United today has its foundations back in that era - in particular, the way it was done with young players. And that’s really the saddest part of all; that these young men lost their lives almost before they’d started to really enjoy their football: Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman, David Pegg, just young lads at the start of their careers; such a terrible tragedy. I was lucky enough to see Duncan play for England U23s against Scotland - he scored a hat-trick. I trust Bobby Charlton’s opinion without question, and when he says Duncan, at just 21, was the best he ever played with, that tells you everything.
I recall reading that it took Matt a long time to deal with how he would face the players again, of how he’d lain there in hospital knowing he’d lost all these young lads, but had to go back to those that had survived. He felt commitment to do something about it, which gave him the drive and purpose to rebuild. But it takes special people to do what he did, to come through that and carry on. I think if he’d retired there and then, people would have understood.
It tells you something about the man’s character and the steel he had. It’s about having a foundation you can rely on - and I think Matt had that: the concept of loyalty, a work ethic and the trust of and in those around him. I think you bring these things to your job; be it sport, business, or whatever - and I think it’s an asset, because you’ve got something to fall back on during trying times. And that’s what ultimately saw him through. If I’d have been there that day, I’d have had a bet on him doing it, because he had the will.
Of course, Matt lovingly rebuilt his team to win the European Cup in 1968 - again in all the right ways - with all but a handful of that side homegrown. It was a staggering achievement: one that, in part, has helped to create the romance