20th January, 2011 marked the 17th anniversary of the passing of Sir Matt Busby, and Steve Crabtree writes a tribute on behalf of everyone at Red Flag Flying High to the man who, quite simply was Manchester United.
He brought us football that was played in such a way, it became the United way. He brought us players who were ‘United players’ – a term that you still hear today, and you know exactly what it means.
He took United to new levels, levels where other teams feared go, and lost a team he’d built in doing so on that tragic day in February 1958. Busby himself nearly died for us, and had the last rites read to him twice during the nine weeks that followed that fateful day.
He recovered from this to rebuild a team for us, who gave us the honour of being the first English football club to win Europe’s premier cup competition. And during his entire reign, he unearthed kids who would go on to become legends, embedded in our history.
When Matt Busby was offered the Real Madrid job in 1956, President Santiago Bernabeutold him that the role was like managing paradise.
Busby replied “Manchester is my heaven”.
Every time I think about and picture this, it brings right on home to me what my football club is about. And what it means to us who love Manchester United.
It’s a religion. It’s a passion. It’s my love, and my constant and it’s why I support the team and the manager through thick and thin, because Manchester is MY heaven too. And Sir Matt didn’t teach me that – I just learned it from the institution he’d built. It’s just the United way, isn’t it?
Sir Matt Busby passed away on January 20th 1994.
It was such a sad day travelling to the United v Everton game the following Saturday after his passing, where the forecourt at Old Trafford was a sea of red and white where supporters had laid their scarves and shirts in tribute to the great man. The lone piper who led the teams out on to the pitch made it difficult for even the coldest person to hold back their emotion. Fittingly we won that game 1-0, the goal and man of the match performance coming from Ryan Giggs. Fitting because Giggs had been developed and nurtured in to the first team as a youngster. The United way.
The way Matt Busby gave us.
Busby brought English football on to the European scene and fittingly, on the 26th May 1999 United once again won the trophy at the Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona. Fitting because as fate would have it, that date would have been Sir Matt’s 90th birthday. And we faced Bayern Munich, the team from where Busby’s babes perished all those years before.
Matt Busby brought us all something special. He built a club but gave us so much more than that. And it’s worth reflecting on what a privilege he made it for us to support Manchester United.
Thank you for that, Sir Matt. You will never, ever be forgotten.
Rest in peace.