Academy Weekly: Busby Babes' legacy lives on

Tuesday 06 February 2024 11:58

On the 66th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, the Academy remembers the lives tragically lost, including six graduates of the flourishing Manchester United youth system.

As well as Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg and Liam ‘Billy ‘ Whelan, we remember their team-mates Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor and the other victims of the crash, including three members of club staff.

In particular, we acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of United secretary Walter Crickmer, whose insatiable determination helped to found the Academy and then sustain it during World War Two, and coach Bert Whalley, who was a crucial influence in moulding the talent of the Busby Babes.

The story of Munich remains significant not only for reasons of remembrance and tribute but for the powerful impact it can have on players, coaches and staff today at the Academy. Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy’s unrelenting faith in youth allowed United — in the words of chairman Harold Hardman — to “go on” in the aftermath of tragedy.

With the first-team squad decimated, young players like Alex Dawson, Shay Brennan, Mark Pearson, Freddie Goodwin, Ronnie Cope and Bobby Harrop stepped up. Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that, thanks to remarkable commitment and effort from those at the time, all five of United’s teams — seniors, Reserves, ‘A’, ‘B’ and Juniors — continued almost immediately after the disaster. Nothing can demonstrate United’s unwavering dedication to our Academy than that.

How our U13s did United proud in Munich Video

How our U13s did United proud in Munich

Our U13s visited a school in Munich to present everything they'd learned about the Air Disaster to local children...


Last year, for the 65th anniversary, the Under-13s group travelled to Munich to pay tributes at the site of the disaster itself. They also trained with and played games against Bayern Munich. At the memorial service, one young player read out a poem they had written in a touching moment.

The Under-13s group have once again focused on education around Munich this year as their key education project. This involved a fascinating talk a fortnight ago from Jimmy Murphy Junior and Roy Cavanagh MBE, author of numerous books on United’s history.

During their time together, the group heard about what the Babes achieved, the tragedy of Munich and what its legacy means to United and our many fans around the world.


At all Academy games closest to the anniversary of the disaster, players wore black armbands as a mark of respect. Meanwhile, the coaches of United and Arsenal Under-18s laid wreaths at Carrington on Saturday, just as Travis Binnion did before the Under-21s fixture against Norwich City at Old Trafford seven days earlier.

Travis Binnion laid a wreath before the Under-21s' recent game at Old Trafford.


In a week when the club has remembered and paid tribute to those young footballers who left the world in awe of their skill, it’s been wonderful to see their legacy carried forward by a new generation.

Following goals from Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, midfielder Kobbie Mainoo came up with a big moment late on, scoring a 97th-minute winner. He was teed up for the goal by Omari Forson, 19, who was making his Premier League debut.

The last three winning goals in the Premier League that were scored in the 90th minute or later by players aged 18 or younger have all come from graduates of our Academy:

Marcus Rashford v Hull (2016)
Alejandro Garnacho v Fulham (2022)
Kobbie Mainoo v Wolves (2024)

All The Angles: Mainoo v Wolves Video

All The Angles: Mainoo v Wolves

All The Angles | Seriously, Kobbie Mainoo’s winner at Molineux gets better and better with every watch…

First-team manager Erik ten Hag spoke of watching Mainoo for the first time last autumn.

“I thought he was playing too comfortable in the Under-21s [and that] he should be much more dominant [so] we pushed him a lot,” he said, as a powerful reminder that the headline-making moment everyone sees comes only after years of hard work.

“He’s made such good progress. It is wonderful to see.”

Later in the week, Alejandro Garnacho scored an Old Trafford double — reminiscent of the brace he scored in the 2022 FA Youth Cup final at the same ground — to help United defeat West Ham 3-0 in the Premier League. Elsewhere in the competition, Jack Harrison scored for Everton and fellow graduates Danny Welbeck (Brighton) and Andreas Pereira (Fulham) contributed excellent assists.


In a pulsating game of cup football at Carrington on Saturday, United triumphed 4-2 over Arsenal to secure a spot in the Under-18 Premier League Cup semi-finals. You can watch the match highlights below.

U18s highlights: United v Arsenal Video

U18s highlights: United v Arsenal

Catch up on the key action from an eventful U18 Premier League Cup clash at Carrington in just five minutes...


Cup success followed another win in the Under-18 Premier League as United fought hard to defeat visiting Liverpool.

On the team’s 14-game winning run, coach Colin Little said: “That is what keeps them going a little bit at the minute because we don’t usually talk about it. But because it’s been mentioned that we’ve not been beaten yet and not dropped any points, every time a game comes around they’ve got that in their heads.

“They’re the ones that are driving that at the moment, we’re still concentrating on the performances. Of course, it’s good to win, but we’ve got to give them the appropriate challenge. We’re still swapping the team around and making sure everybody plays, it’s not just about trying to win every game at all costs.”

You can watch highlights of the 4-3 win against Liverpool below.

U18s highlights: United v Liverpool Video

U18s highlights: United v Liverpool

Watch all the key action from an evening goal fest at Carrington...


After several moves were completed late in the winter transfer window, the following Academy players are now out on loan:

Sonny Aljofree (Altrincham), Rhys Bennett (Stockport County), Alvaro Fernandez (Benfica), Will Fish (Hibernian), Dan Gore (Port Vale), Joe Hugill (Burton Albion), Sam Mather (Rochdale), Sam Murray (Rochdale), Maxi Oyedele (Forest Green Rovers), Radek Vitek (Accrington Stanley), Tom Wooster (Macclesfield). 

“I am pleased to say that we have managed to secure loans for all of the players that we identified as being ready for a new challenge this month; the planning for this window having taken place over the last 12 months,” explained Nick Cox, Director of Academy.

“For some players, a period of development away from the club is required to provide experiences that will develop the skills needed to bridge the gap between Academy football and our first team.”

You can read more from Nick on loans in his latest Inside The Academy column.


The Under-21s take on Southampton away in Premier League 2 this Friday evening (19:00 GMT). The Under-18s travel to Derby County for a midday Saturday kick-off. Both games will be shown live on MUTV.


Our Under-21s' meeting with Liverpool in Premier League 2, previously scheduled for Sunday 14 April, will now be played on Friday 12 April at Old Trafford, kicking off at 19:30 BST. This will be the team's third match at the Theatre of Dreams this season, after an August meeting with Leeds United and a late January victory over Norwich City.