06/02/2014 04:13 GMT | Updated 06/02/2014 14:59 GMT

Munich Air Disaster: Manchester United Mark 56th Anniversary


Manchester United today marked the 56th anniversary of the Munich air disaster which has come to define them as a football club.

Eight players and three members of the Old Trafford staff were among the 23 killed in the tragedy, yet United still miraculously managed to reach the FA Cup final three months later.

The first English club to compete in the European Champions' Cup - now the Champions League - United were returning from a 5-3 quarter-final aggregate victory over Red Star Belgrade when they landed to refuel in Munich.

United players prepare to board their plane at Ringway airport

Take-off was abandoned twice in snowy conditions but, fearing they would fall too far behind schedule, Captain James Thain fatefully rejected an overnight stay in favour of a third take-off attempt. The aircraft hit the layer of slush and ploughed through a fence beyond the end of the runway.

Tommy Taylor, Eddie Colman, David Pegg, Geoff Bent, Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Rogery Byrne and Duncan Edwards were the eight United players who died in Munich. Frank Swift, the former Manchester City goalkeeper who had covered the game for the News of the World, also perished. Six other journalists died.

Of the nine United players who survived, Sir Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg are the only two still alive today. Bill Foulkes died in November last year and Kenny Morgans passed away in 2012.

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