On 20 January 1994, Sir Matt Busby lost his battle against cancer. Two days later, United hosted Everton in the Premier League on an unforgettable afternoon of remembrance...
The Background: As soon as news broke of Busby's passing, football supporters flocked from far and wide to pay tribute by laying flowers, shirts or scarves on the Old Trafford forecourt. By the time Mike Walker's Everton arrived in M16 two days later, the stadium was fronted by a carpet of remembrance. 44,750 supporters entered the stadium, thousands more were outside, but pin-drop silence soundtracked stadium announcer Keith Fane's reading of a pre-match message from the Busby family. "Matt always had a smile on his face even during the last few days in hospital," they said. "For champions past and present, please sing the roof off the stadium today."
The applause rose, fell and ceased shortly afterwards as a lone piper, Terry Carr from the Mount Carmel Pipe Band, led the teams onto the field, playing 'A Scottish Soldier'. A minute's silence was immaculately observed, even by the most overcome supporters, in an astonishing 60 seconds interrupted only by the light blowing of the January wind. "I've experienced some minute's silences before,'' Mark Hughes said afterwards. ''But nothing as intense as that." After the second peep of the referee's whistle, Everton's supporters were afforded thunderous applause for their immaculate role in proceedings, as Old Trafford cranked up the volume in tribute to the great man. At Alex Ferguson's behest, the players set about putting on a show worthy of Busby's lifelong commitment to entertaining football.
The Occasion: Perhaps affected by the circumstances in the first few minutes, United could have fallen behind when Peter Schmeichel was forced into fine saves from Neil Moore and Brett Angell. Soon, however, the football was flowing in a manner of which Sir Matt would have approved, and fittingly the opening goal came from Ryan Giggs, the side's embodiment of all that Busby wanted for United. The winger darted into the area to meet Roy Keane's first-time cross and glanced home a clinical header. The goal should have marked the opening of the floodgates, but profligate finishing from the Reds and superb goalkeeping from Neville Southall somehow kept the difference narrow.