How the Busby Babes strengthened my bond with Manchester United
Being a Manchester United fan since 2014/15, all I experienced till now has been agony. More than once, my friends, and even my dad, told me to stop supporting United.
Nevertheless, my bond with the Red Devils only grew stronger with time. Delving deeper into United's rich history, I realised this club is more than Sir Alex, Wayne Rooney, CR7 or even trophies. More than anything, the story of the Busby Babes had the most profound impact.
Exploring the Babes, it didn't take long for me to conclude that Manchester United is the team of my life. The struggles Sir Matt Busby went through to build the Babes, including fighting the Football League to ensure English clubs can play in the European Cup, and how Jimmy Murphy nurtured them into fine footballers is an odyssey which will remain inspirational for generations to come.
For me, the Babes are football in its truest essence. The team's youthfulness captured the imagination then as it does now. When Matt Busby first assembled the squad in 1955/56, everyone had written United off and even ridiculed Busby for his "over-reliance on youth".
I always had a soft-spot for underdogs. And, like true underdogs, the Babes defied the odds, empathically. At an age when football was regarded as a man's game, the Busby Babes completely debunked that myth, instead showing the world how youthful zeal and energy can make football a source of entertainment. Led by the charismatic leadership of Roger Byrne, and fine tuned by the expertise of Murphy, the Babes blossomed.
The story of Duncan Edwards amazes me to this day. For the older generation, he is the greatest player to pull on the famous red shirt, despite being 21-years-old. Eddie 'Snakehips' Coleman's trademark body-swerve and versatility is exemplary even today. Tommy Taylor's exploits in front of goal warrants nothing but respect – he still has the best games-to-goals ratio in United history. The most impactful has undoubtedly been Byrne – at an era when fullbacks only defended, he used to attack for fun, playing as an inverted leftback.
Despite their dizzying success at such a young age, the Babes led modest lives. Most players lived in lodgings and earned barely enough to make ends meet. Their sense of duty towards the society was underlined in the immediate aftermath of the Munich Air Disaster, when Harry Gregg and Bobby Charlton selflessly contributed to the rescue effort despite suffering grievous injuries. This only increased my respect for this incredible team.
Of course, all this wouldn't have been possible without Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy. United will forever be indebted for their role in reviving Manchester United through the 1950s. Murphy, in particular, was instrumental – without his fervour and understanding of the psyche, it's unlikely the Babes would have achieved what they did.
Busby's tactical nous was incredible for that era. 1950s English football was all about grinding out results. Again, Busby challenged the norms, going full out attacking with a 2-3-5 formation. Safe to say, it paid off. The 1955/56 and 1956/57 League titles and 1957's FA Cup runners-up medal bear testament to that.
The Busby Babes might well have been the greatest team in the history of football. But their dreams were cruelly cut short in the snow-covered runway of Munich-Riem Airport at 3:04 PM, February 6, 1958. At the time of their passing, the average age of the squad was only 22.
This philosophy of attacking football, never-say-die attitude, passion and Busby's emphasis in youth makes Manchester United so special. The Flowers of Manchester might have wilted in the Munich snow, but the Babes remain alive through the very fabric of Manchester United's existence.
Inqiad is the CEO of Rashford FC. Contact him at [email protected]