As Matt Busby lay immobile in Munich, his trusty assistant Jimmy Murphy - who missed the trip to Belgrade because of his duties as Wales manager - had to pick up the pieces. Busby had told him, "Keep the flag flying, Jimmy."
As goalkeeper Harry Gregg recalled in his autobiography, the players who were left and able needed to play again. He wrote: “It (playing football) saved my sanity. I couldn’t get to the ground quick enough for training. Those brief moments spent running, diving, kicking, arguing and fighting were my escape valve.”
United’s chairman Harold Hardman was in full agreement. Just 13 days after the crash, the rescheduled fifth-round FA Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday went ahead in front of a highly charged Old Trafford crowd of 59,848, with thousands more fans locked outside. Beneath the headline ‘United will go on’, Hardman’s message on the front of United Review (the club's match programme) was simple, yet effective.
“Although we mourn our dead and grieve for our wounded, we believe that great days are not done for us… Manchester United will rise again.”
The teamsheet in the United Review was poignantly blank. But Jimmy Murphy had followed his boss’s instructions and somehow put together a side to face Sheffield Wednesday. Crash survivors Gregg and Bill Foulkes were in the line-up, alongside new signings Ernie Taylor from Blackpool and Stan Crowther from Aston Villa, the team that had beaten United in the 1957 FA Cup final. Crowther signed just over an hour before kick-off and was given special dispensation to play having already appeared in the Cup that season for Villa.
The remainder of the team was a mixture of juniors and reserves: Ian Greaves, Freddie Goodwin, Ronnie Cope, Colin Webster, Alex Dawson, Stan Pearson and Shay Brennan, who scored twice on his debut as United won 3-0. Brennan would go on to play in the 1968 European Cup final ten years later.