Man Utd Win 1st English European Cup


Man Utd Win 1st English European Cup

Wembley, London The 29th of May 1968 AD

As L.P. Hartley might have said, the past is a foreign country but they didn't have foreign football players then. The previous year Celtic lifted the European Cup with a totally home-grown side; Benfica, Manchester Unitedís opponents at Wembley in 1968 fielded a 100 per cent Portuguese team; Unitedís 11 were all British or Irish.
The occasion was dramatic but poignant too: many looked on and saw the ghosts of those Busby Babes killed in the 1958 Munich air crash , several of them young enough, as were Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes, to have still been in the side had they lived.
Man Utd took the lead with a looping header by Charlton, Benfica equalising through GraÁa to take the game beyond regulation time. In the extra half-hour Unitedís fitness proved vital on a hot night. Three minutes into extra time George Best scored after a lightning dribble; Brian Kidd, on his 19th birthday, netted a minute later to kill the game; Charlton applied the coup de grace shortly afterwards.
Today top teams are packed with proven internationals: it is enlightening to see four English players in Unitedís side Ė Alex Stepney, Foulkes, David Sadler and Brian Kidd - shared just eight caps between them; and man of the match John Aston never received one. Teamwork and the nous of manager Matt Busby helped secure victory: Best and Charlton added style; but equally important was Nobby Stiles , nullifying Eusebio in 1968 as he had in the 1966 World Cup semi-final.

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