Manchester United are more than just a global football team. They are a symbol of strength, grit and determination against all odds. It is what pulled them through the events in Munich on February 6th, 1958, when a British European Airways flight crashed, killing 23 on its third attempt at take-off.
A depleted Manchester United team had to find a way to carry on. Left with very little, they fulfilled fixtures in the name of the fallen, culminating in a first European Cup triumph only a decade later.
Today they are one of the most recognised sporting teams on the planet.
“60 years today a Man United fan, where’s the time gone”? A very simple, but poignant text message I received from my dad this morning.
You see, my dad was a post-war child and was brought up in a large household with very little money, and was just a little boy when tragedy struck the Manchester United team that fateful night. He was a boy who was deeply moved by the events, so much so, he kept a scrap book of all the newspaper articles from the time.
His life in Brighton, East Sussex, was seemingly a million miles away from Munich, or Manchester for that matter.
Perhaps the strengths and qualities shown from his own parents from a post-war era had resonated with my dad when he heard about the Munich Air Disaster and the resulting tough times for the northern club.
From the day he heard about the crash, he was hooked on Manchester United. He became obsessed (and still is) with them. His childhood was now about Manchester United and nothing else. He saw a young Duncan Edwards survive the crash, clinging on for life. My dad tells me he was in shock when he heard that Edwards had later passed.
For my dad, it was not about the football, it was about how people dealt with adversity. How they come together to help in times of need.
When us three boys came along, he introduced us all to the famous red and white colours of Manchester, and, like my dad, we became obsessive United fans.
We have shared many memories of the great team together. Lots of laughs and a few cries. Since we were kids, my brothers and I have followed the team up and down the country and in Europe. In 1999, I distinctly remember jumping all over my dad’s back in utter joy when United won an historic treble by scoring two late goals to clinch the Champions League. My younger brother was also running around the living room, screaming his head off. And my older brother was at the game itself. He was there. And yet it felt like we were all there together.
That is the great thing about Manchester United ― they bring us together. A sense of common ground and understanding. And a way to forget about stresses of everyday life. We all have families ourselves now, but our joint love of Manchester United remains.
It is strange to think that such a tragedy all those years ago enabled three future brothers and a dad to share truly priceless times together.
Here is to another 60 years.