Ten years on from the Munich air disaster, Manchester United FC lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup for the first time with victory against SL Benfica at Wembley, surviving a number of scares along the way.
Matt Busby's side failed to win a single away game, but all that was forgotten as they overcame Real Madrid CF to reach the final, where Alex Stepney's late save from Eusébio sent the match into extra time after Jaime Graça had cancelled out Bobby Charlton's 54th-minute opener. Munich survivor Charlton struck for a second time after goals from George Best and Brian Kidd had put the game beyond Benfica. Stepney and central defender David Sadler recall that cathartic day.
The early part of the European Cup, as it was then, was really all Madrid and Benfica. I don't know how many times they won it between them in the early years, but it was a lot. And justifiably so; they were magnificent clubs and magnificent teams. We all knew the sides, we all knew [Ferenc] Puskás and we all knew Eusébio and all those sort of people. So you know, you're living the Roy of the Rovers dream; you've just beaten Madrid and now we've got Benfica. The final was fantastic, because Wembley held 100,000 in those days, and 99.9% of them must have been United supporters.
Obviously then, it was absolutely the most to play at Wembley. Now I would think it's the same, in respect that it's a new Wembley, and it will be the first [European final] to be held there, and it will be great honour.
We scored first, I had a little bit of a hand in that, and Bobby – he didn't head too many goals, but he headed us into the lead. Then they equalised and if I am fair I probably had a hand in that as well; I should have done a bit more maybe to stop it. But anyway, it was a goal and it was 1-1, with not too long to go. I remember Alex Stepney making the save that has stuck with him.
If I had made that save four minutes into the game instead of four minutes before the end, nobody would have remembered it. But it's one of those things. It was 1-1 and he came through and had a shot. And it hit me, well actually it embedded in my chest, but I held onto it and that was it. He came up and applauded me.
Of course we were tired [after 90 minutes], but I think we generally felt that we were the better side.
We stayed on the pitch and people like Wilf McGuinness, Jack Crompton and Jimmy Murphy were just going around saying: "Look, if you feel tired, look at those Benfica players over there, they've had it!" Whatever it was they said and whoever they said it to, the final was decided in the next five or six minutes. We managed to score three goals in what seemed like no time at all.
[After the final whistle] I think every player went to Matt Busby. Because we all knew what it meant to the club, and obviously the relatives from Munich; we understood. Normally when that final whistle goes, you go to your nearest player, and it was just nothing we ever spoke about, but most of us went to Matt Busby and then enjoyed the lap of honour.
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