Manchester United: Munich crash still haunts survivors 65 years later

Not a day goes by without him thinking about it: Wilf McGuinness, who escaped the Munich crash, still carries the memory of the legendary Manchester United team, mowed down in its glory days on 6 February 1958. A legendary team that would not go unnoticed by the most popular bookmakers

Every year, Manchester United pays its respects to the victims of this tragedy, who will never be forgotten. They were young and nicknamed the “Busby Babes”. Under the leadership of Sir Matt Busby, this golden generation was then the double champion of England. 

One day in February

Everything came to an end on February 6, 1958. The team was returning from Belgrade, where they had played Red Star in the quarter-final second leg of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup and qualified for the semi-finals. Stopping in Munich to refuel, the plane never arrived in Manchester. 

After two aborted take-offs due to bad weather, the third one was fatal for the plane and its passengers. The toll of the crash was heavy: 23 people lost their lives, including eight players and three members of the team management. In a few hours, the club went from the joy of qualification for the semi-finals of the C1 to desolation. 

Eight players were among them:  Eddie Colman (21), Duncan Edwards (21), Liam Whelan (22), David Pegg (22), Mark Jones (24), Geoff Bent (25), Tommy Taylor (26), and Roger Byrne (28). Edwards was considered by many to be the best player of his generation and died a fortnight after the crash. 

The other passengers were three club officials, eight journalists, three crew members, and a club supporter, a friend of Matt Busby.

Others were better off, nine players in particular, including Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, and Dennis Viollet for the most famous, or the now legendary coach of the Busby Babes, Matt Busby, who had the courage to return to the bench to rebuild the team that would become European champions ten years later. 

It is an event that was part of the life of each of its players, of their soccer culture. And why? Because it was such a tragedy that the memory of it still resonates for 60 years. Wilf McGuinness (80 years old) escaped the tragedy. He was injured and learned the news in the hospital while recovering from cartilage surgery. But the pain of this loss is so great that it is difficult to be happy that he escaped or that he was not there. He attended the funerals of all of his teammates and still holds the memory in his mind. 

“They made United.”

They were so special and so young when they died… It’s incredible! They were the best United team of all time. They won the FA Cup three years after Matt Busby arrived and after finishing three seasons in second place, United were champions in 1952 by four points over London rivals Spurs and the Gunners. 41 years after its last title, United was about to walk towards a destiny that will leave a deep mark in the history of English soccer.

United was then nicknamed by the press “the Busby Babes”, a term that does not please the manager for its childish connotation. He simply preferred the name of the Red Devils (the nickname of the Salford rugby team). Matt Busby brings in young talents like Johnny Berry, Tommy Taylor, and Duncan Edwards. With the addition of Dennis Viollet and David Pegg, United won the title in the 1955-56 season with an 11-point lead. Busby then revealed his new young prodigy, Bobby Charlton, with a devastating shot. The team won the championship for the second time and went on to European glory, while previous England shunned the competition.

At the beginning of the 1957-58 season, Busby felt the team was ready for European success. It was close after the 2-1 victory against Red Star Belgrade in the quarterfinals of the European Cup. 

The return match in Belgrade is a real test for the young Manchester team. They qualify with a 3-3 draw. Matt Busby can look back on a job well done during his 13 years at the club. The consecration approaches, but the misfortune too. 


After the tragedy of the Munich crash, the club recovered with difficulty. Until it won the European Championship title ten years later in 1968. A victory that was dedicated to these heroes who “made United” The big regret of this tragedy is also the lack of images and video of “Busby Babes”. Especially in this day and age when the internet has revolutionized all and you can find everything online, from old football games to ways to play video poker online. This is missed by young fans, who cannot see how these former teammates were “magnificent players”.


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