6 February 1958 will always be remembered as a black day in the footballing world. It was this day that a young Manchester United team went through the darkest stage of their life. Eight players from the famed Busby Babes perished in a horrific crash at the Munich-Riem Airport, Germany. The tragedy came to be known as the ‘Munich air disaster’.
The team was returning from their European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade. They had defeated their opponents and progressed to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, the journey of seven players was never meant to be finished as the flight crashed on its third attempt to take off from the runway. 20 people of the onboard 44 died at the scene.
At the time, the Manchester United players were called the ‘Busby Babes’. The young and gifted group of players went on to win two league championships in two years under the management of legendary Sir Matt Busby. What made this achievement even more impressive is that the average of the team was between 21 and 22.
The term ‘Busby Babes’ was coined by Tom Jackson, a journalist for Manchester Evening News because none of the players were bought by the club as they all were products of the famed Manchester United academy under Busby.
The eight players who passed away were Geoff Bent (aged 25), Roger Byrne (28), Eddie Colman (21), Duncan Edwards (21) - Died 15 days after the accident, Mark Jones (24), David Pegg (22), Tommy Taylor (26) and Liam Whelan (22).
Eight journalists and former Manchester City goalkeeper were also victims in the unfortunate turn of events. Following the crash, Sir Matt, assisted by Jimmy Murphy did not let his injuries stop him from building another team which won the European Cup 10 years later.
Such was the impact of the Manchester United team of that era that there was even a song dedicated to them. The words are as follows, “Football is a beautiful game, played in the run and played in the rain. And the team that gets me excited, Manchester United.”
In 2011, a movie named ‘United’ was released. It is based on the true story of the ‘Busby Babes’ and the aftermath of the Munich Air Disaster.
In a clear homage to ‘Busby Babes’, the players who were recruited by arguably the best manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, were called ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’.