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Crerand, Aston, Busby and Best with the European Cup in 1968

Kings of Europe: Key men share memories of 1968

Fifty years ago today, and ten years after the Munich Air Disaster, Sir Matt Busby's Manchester United team beat Portuguese champions Benfica 4-1 after extra-time at Wembley to win the European Cup. Here's what some of the men who were there have said about it since...

Brian Kidd: Everyone was just convinced we had to win it. I honestly felt it was something that was meant to be. We knew we had to do it for Sir Matt.

Sir Bobby Charlton: On the morning of the game I can remember thinking we had come too far and had been through too much to fail now. And we had everything going for us, playing at home and with a good record against Portuguese sides – and besides, after coming back in the Madrid semi-final the way we did, I thought it would be impossible for us to get beaten.

Benfica manager, Otto Gloria: The player I especially admired was George Best – muito bon! As we say! But as a team they could all go forward – and then all go back just as well – and I thought their speed could upset my team.
The two captains shake hands before the game.

Sir Bobby Charlton: Without being disrespectful to the team, a lot of us were beginning to be past our peak and I knew a lot of us weren’t going to get another chance at this cup.

Nobby Stiles: There was ballyhoo about before about how I would mark Eusebio: people were suggesting I was a clogger. One paper said he had asked the ref for protection. But I respected Eusebio and never went out to kick him – and I always found him to be alright with me.

George Best: I was so looking forward to what I imagined would be 90 minutes of pure magic, us hammering them. But I only played well in snatches and it was tough going – we weren’t playing that well to start with, the tackles were coming in hard and it was still 0-0 at half-time.

Geoffrey Green, The Times: Few Wembley occasions equalled that night. Out of nothing drew a dramatic climax. The first-half was episodic, as a spate of ruthless Portuguese tackling and a symphony of Italian referee whistling broke the match into a thousand pieces, both teams clearly out of humour with each other. Yet this merely proved to be crucible. Out of the fire and cruelty came something to treasure.

Sir Bobby Charlton (on his first goal): I was only on a decoy run but David knocked it nicely and I was just trying to flick it on - it flew into the bottom corner! Lovely!

David Sadler: It was such an emotional night and we were feeling the pressure, but that goal set us on the way. Bobby could actually be quite a good header of the ball you know!

Sir Matt Busby holds the trophy aloft.
Denis Law (on Eusebio’s chance): I was watching on TV like millions of others and of course I’d been so nervous... and when Eusebio broke, I thought ‘that’s it, we’re never going to win this thing’.

Pat Crerand: I was thinking ‘this isn’t the type of chance Eusebio misses’. My heart sank. He blasted a thunderbolt... and straight at Alex who made quite a brilliant save.

Sir Bobby Charlton: I knew we’d find something extra – British teams had that resilience, especially in extra-time. Of course there was a moment of despair when they equalised, but I knew our stamina training would stand us in good stead and that they’d be tiring too.

Wembley wonders! How we won in '68Video

Sir Matt Busby (on his team talk after 90 minutes): I told them they were in danger of throwing the game away with careless passing instead of continuing with their previously confident football. I told them ‘start to hold the ball – and play again’.

Eamon Dunphy, writer (on George Best’s goal): George all but won the cup with a classic street-game goal. Fastening with razor reflexes onto the ball with 25 yards from goal, he beat one man, then another, then rounded the desperate goalkeeper before gliding the ball deftly across the turf into the net.

Brian Kidd (on his goal): The cheers for Besty’s goal had barely died when my moment of glory came; what a 19th birthday present. Bobby’s corner was only half cleared and I got a header in which Henrique scooped out of the bar – but in doing so, he’d come out just enough for me to be able to lob him with a second header. 3-1: the clincher!
Sir Bobby Charlton says

"At the whistle Matt and I hugged and I didn’t need to say anything to the old man because I didn’t need to. I knew exactly what he was thinking."

Sir Bobby Charlton: At the whistle Matt and I hugged and I didn’t need to say anything to the old man because I didn’t need to. I knew exactly what he was thinking. I remember thinking that it was the ultimate achievement. And it had been our duty; it had become a family thing.

Eric Todd, The Manchester Guardian: The scenes after this match defied adequate description; even those beforehand challenged it seriously as United’s legions captured the heights around the stadium. The transcending emotion afterwards was that of unequivocal universal pleasure for Matt Busby. And did he look briefly up to the heavens for the approval of the spirits of Munich?

Bill Foulkes: I had come the whole way with the boss trying to make us Champions of Europe. I’m proud to have been a part of it, of course – and our victory seemed the right tribute to the memory of all those we lost on the way.

Sir Matt Busby: The moment Bobby took the cup, it cleansed me. It eased the pain of the guilt of going into Europe. It was my justification.