Sir Matt Busby may have stepped down as United manager at the end of the 1968/69 season - and again in 1971 after a brief return in place of his dismissed successor Wilf McGuinness - but his links with the club remained strong and provided a fascinating postscript to his illustrious tenure in charge of the team.
Having become a director, and subsequently club president, Busby retained an office down the corridor from the manager’s office at Old Trafford, with his pipe smoke a familiar smell around the stadium as he remained a key part of life at the club. As former player Jimmy Ryan found, his aura and people skills remained undiminished by time.
"I was staggered. I was only a player at United for six years and made under 30 appearances, I wasn’t a big name, I hadn’t been around for a long time and hadn’t been in contact at all, so I was absolutely stunned that he remembered straight away.
"Not only did he remember people, he had affection for football and footballers, and loved chatting about the game. I’ll always remember that day with my son, and how much that meant to us both.”
Present as both a club figurehead and a sounding board for his successors, Busby remained a fixture at Old Trafford until his death on 20 January 1994, at which point the outpouring of tributes transcended rivalries, with shirts, scarves and tributes penned and laid on the stadium’s forecourt by supporters of all clubs, including established rivals Liverpool, Manchester City and Leeds United.
“I think everybody recognised the man and every football fan in Britain that day recognised the man,”says Paddy Crerand. “Would that happen for anybody else? I’m not so sure. The adulation was incredible. People recognise greatness. Just look at Nelson Mandela [when he died] a few weeks ago and the recognition he got worldwide. You don’t get that for many people, where everybody mourns at the same time. You very rarely get that for a human being.”