Away from all the doom and gloom of United leading the Premiership by six points, but doing it badly, today see’s the 63rd anniversary of a very important day in the club’s history.
Football had risen out of the ashes of World War II less than two years previously, after a seven year absence. Players fighting on the front line for their country and football grounds being blown to bits meant that the working mans game had been taken away from them at a time where spirits were down, but hearts and minds were positive.
For Manchester United, it was their first appearance in an FA Cup final for 39 years. The reds only previous appearance was way back in 1909, coincidentally on 24th April at Crystal Palace where they beat Bristol City 1-0.
32 days after that victory, Matt Busby was born.
It was Matt Busby who was the United boss all those years later, steering his side to Wembley by battling through the stages of the FA Cup by beating first division opposition in every round. This included the 3-0 demolition of champions Liverpool, and a 3-1 semi final win over Derby County with Stan Pearson grabbing a hatrick at Hillsborough to put United through to the big one.
Despite the achievement of the previous rounds, they went in to the final as underdogs, facing the mighty Blackpool. Blackpool had the awesome Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen playing for them, and the seaside club were one of the leading sides in England.
The all Lancashire final got off to a rip roaring start. With both teams in change colours (Blackpool in white, United in Blue), it was Blackpool who went in front on 12 minutes. Stan Mortensen being brought down from behind in the penalty area, and Joe Shimwell converting the spot kick to give them a 1-0 lead.
United replied 16 minutes later through Jack Rowley, after Jimmy Delaney set the chance up for him on a plate.
Blackpool went in to the Wembley dressing room in front at half time. Stan Mortensen again having a lot to do with that, putting the ball past Jack Crompton, both teams, in the United net on 35 minutes.
Were hairdryers invented in 1948? I’m sure they were, but the half-time hairdryer certainly wasn’t Matt Busby’s style anyway. However, he did do something and his team talk sure had an impact as they went out to take the second half.
Jack Rowley was the talisman again on 70 minutes as he darted between two Blackpool defenders to fire home the equaliser, but United weren’t finished then.
Ten minutes later, Stan Mortensen had a great chance to put Blackpool back in to the lead. His thunderous effort was magnificently saved by Jack Crompton, and a United style counter attack ensued – with the ball eventually ending up at the feet of Stan Pearson who, from twenty yards out, smashed United in to the lead, and on course for victory.
If there was any doubt about who’d win this game, Anderson completed the rout two minutes later to make the final score 4-2 to Matt Busby’s Manchester United, and captain Johnny Carey climbed the 39 steps of Wembley and lifted the cup to the delight of the United fans.
United’s victorious line up that day was: Crompton, Carey, Aston, Anderson, Chiltern, Cockburn, Delaney, Morris, Rowley, Pearson, Mitten
Manchester United were smiling for the first time since Old Trafford was bombed in 1941. They’d not won a major trophy since 1911 when they had last won the First Division championship and had become a yo-yo team in the years between, in and out of the second division on a number of occasions.
24th April 1948 proved to be an important day for Manchester United as Matt Busby sampled winning silverware as a manager for the first time. It was something which he obviously like the taste of, as it kick-started the building of his empire, and the legacy that he left with us when he retired 21 years later.
If you have your on the pitch issues with the current United of today, it’s worth putting yourself in the situation of a supporter back in 1948. Your life wasn’t great, and your team had been in the dolldrums for years. You’d only just got over the fact your players had gone to war, and there had been a chance they might never come back.
Yet they still smiled. They still loved Manchester United. They still always looked on the bright side of life.
“Believe” was a way of life back then, and they certainly hadn’t been spoiled. Things really HAD been gloomy, and all of us lucky enough to witness the reds in recent years would do well to remember that, and have a moment to think of the side who started the dynasty back in 1948. It’s worth saying thanks to them today.
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