What Munich means 65 years on

Monday 06 February 2023 11:08

Sixty-five years on from the tragic, shocking events of 6 February 1958, the Munich Air Disaster remains the central day in Manchester United’s history.

Our club has gone on to achieve countless magnificent things in the decades since. Becoming the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968 – a victory that was inspired, above all, by those we had lost in Germany only 10 years before. 

Claiming the Treble in 1999. Reaching 20 league titles. The list of accomplishments is extensive. But whatever glorious feats are delivered on the field, Munich is always there, at the core of this club’s story. 

With its unanswerable questions, its unbearable sadness and its unfairness. It rears its head at all kinds of moments – and not just as February rolls around each year.
Ten Hag: We have to keep remembering Video

Ten Hag: We have to keep remembering

The manager explains why, 65 years on, it's important to commemorate those tragically lost in the Munich Air Disaster...

However good the 1968 team was, you can’t help but wonder: what might have happened had George Best shared the pitch with Duncan Edwards? The boy from Dudley would have been just 31 years old in May ’68, when we beat Benfica 4-1 to conquer the continent. Barely a year older than his friend and former team-mate Bobby Charlton, whose two goals powered us to victory that night at Wembley.

In an alternative universe, might the ‘United Trinity’ have been a quartet? A quintet? Something even more incredible? In the back of your mind, even amid triumphs like Barcelona ’99 and Moscow ’08, you ponder how many European Cups we might have claimed if arguably our greatest-ever team had not been stolen away from us. 

If a love for Manchester United is embedded within you, these agonising thoughts are never too far away from the mind, especially around this time of year. There’s the eternal difficulty of reconciling the joy the Busby Babes spread everywhere with the anguish of having them ripped away from us before they reached full fruition.

For better or worse, this is what lends Manchester United its unique emotional complexity. Before 6 February 1958, we were a successful football club – one of many in this country. 

Afterwards, United became something else: a cause, a mission, a quest to do those boys justice. And that responsibility will never leave Manchester United or its supporters. Remembering the Babes is our great obligation, and ensuring we always try to live up to their standards is our great, never-ending challenge. 

Most in attendance at Old Trafford on Saturday will never have seen them play, but we’ve all sung the songs and heard the stories. 

Memories from parents and grandparents have been passed down for generation after generation, so that many of us feel our own kind of closeness to the Babes’ legacy – even if it is merely a byproduct of our love for those who told us the stories.

Forever remembered


On 6 February 1958, 23 people - including eight United players - suffered fatal injuries in the Munich Air Disaster.

But as first-hand memories slowly and sadly start to leave our world, those shared stories become more precious than ever. As do days like today, where we celebrate and commemorate one of the greatest football teams that ever played the game.

It’s our job to ensure they are never forgotten. But thanks to what they achieved, and their luminescent brilliance, our job is an easy one. 

This is a team that won titles by margins of 11 and eight points – when it was just two for a win! That knocked the Spanish champions out of the European Cup in 1957, during our first-ever continental campaign. 

An invaluable trip to Munich for our U13s Video

An invaluable trip to Munich for our U13s

United's U13s have travelled to Munich to engage with our Bayern counterparts and learn more about the 1958 disaster...

The more you learn about the Busby Babes, the more astounding they seem. That is, quite rightly, a massive point of pride for Manchester United fans of all ages. The Babes will always be a primary reason why United is such an important concern to so many people in this city, in this country and around the world. 

Their story is joyful and painful in equal measure, but it has made Manchester United what it is today. And we will never let that slip from our hearts.

This feature was first published in Saturday's edition of United Review, our official matchday programme.