In the final itself, at Wembley, the Reds overcame Benfica, the Eagles of Lisbon, 4-1 after extra time, to claim the continent’s premier club prize. Coming ten years after the trauma of the Munich air disaster, it was the climax to a long road back from the dark days of February 1958 when the plane carrying United back from a successful European expedition crashed.
United had drawn 3-3 against Red Star Belgrade to reach the European Cup semi-final and the team, in good spirits, were travelling back to Manchester when their plane stopped at a wintry Munich Riem airport in order to refuel. Twice the crew attempted to take off on a slushy runway but both times they were forced to abort.
The 44 passengers on the chartered aircraft were asked to return to the departure lounge, but soon after they were again called to take their seats in order to continue their journey to Manchester Ringway. The third fateful attempt to take off was to end in tragedy as the plane crashed through the airfield’s perimeter fence before hitting a house.
Twenty-three people lost their lives as a result of the crash, including eight United players and three members of the club’s backroom staff. It was a tragedy that rocked football, and the wider world, but United were determined to overcome the horror which had struck the club. Having survived the crash without a serious injury, Bill would become a pivotal figure in the years that followed as the club was steadily rebuilt.
Having won two league championships with the Busby Babes before Munich, in 1956 and 1957, Foulkes helped the Reds claim another two league titles in 1965 and 1967, as well as being part of the team that beat Leicester City to win the FA Cup at Wembley in 1963. But the zenith of his monumental career had to be that afore-mentioned May evening in 1968 when United became the first English club to lift the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
On retiring as a player he went into football management and became something of a global traveller as he gave service to clubs in the United States, Norway and Japan.