Manchester United, the msot famous club in English football, were this week relegated from the First Division.
Manchester United, the msot famous club in English football, were this week relegated from the First Division. It brings to an end an era of success during which Manchester United swept all before them with their brnd of exciting, attacking football.
But it was the manner of their departure from the top rank of English football which is most saddening. In their last home game, when they were beaten 0-I by neighbouring Manchester City, United rans invaded the pitch and brought the match to an end in ugly violence.
Paradoxically, it was out of sadness and violence that menchester United's greatness was born. In February, 1958, the team and their manager Mat Busby, were flying home from a European Cup tie when their 'plene creshed at Munich airport. In that disaster, the cream of the team they called 'Bust,'s Babes' was lost.
Busby himself was badly injured, butr he hobbled out of hospital to begin the task of putting United back togetehr again. And he succeeded brilliantly.
By 1968, with a blend of new players like George Best and Munich survivors such as Bobby Charlton, United reached the very pinnacle of success by beating Benfica to win the European Cup 4-1. In between, they had won the English F.A. Cup.
But the teams of the Sixties will be remembered for mroe than the medals they won, for theirs was an exciting blend of skill and flair which attracted record crowds wherever they played.
The decline began with the 1970's, when Busby retired from active management. Successive managers, in the shadow of the great Busby, were unable to wield the necessary authority, and soon, the biggest news out of Old Trafford, United's home ground, were off-the-field exploits of their wayward star, George Best.
Of the great names, Best yielded to the lure of the rich life and left football, Bobby Charlton retired to go into management and Denis Law was transferred. Oddly enough, it was Law who scored the goal -- for Manchester City -- which put United's fate bayond doubt last Saturday, when they played their last home game in the First Division for at least a year.
United had put up a grim fight to stay in the First Division -- where they have been for 37 years-- but it was not enough. To cap their misery, their own fans had staged a deplorable exhibition of violence which lost United friends and sympathy.
Now, it is left to manager Tommy Docherty to try to do what Busby once did -- pull Manchester United back from despair.
He, at least remains confident. Interviewed just after United's last home match, he said the team would come back: