[1992:] Die Geschichte von Sir Matt Busby und Manchester United gehört zur internationalen Fußballfolklore. Manchester United war 1957 mit einem Rekordvorsprung von elf Punkten englischer Meister geworden, mit einem Team, das ein Durchschnittsalter von 22 Jahren hatte. Die "Busby-Babies" des schon damals legendären Coachs waren zudem auf dem Weg, den europäischen Fußball zu erobern, als sie am 6. Februar 1958 auf dem Rollfeld von München-Riem eine Maschine bestiegen. Tags zuvor hatten sie sich bei Partizan [sic!] Belgrad für das Halbfinale im Europacup qualifiziert. Doch das Flugzeug erhob sich nur kurz, stürzte dann ab, brach auseinander und explodierte. Acht Spieler starben, zwei weitere konnten nie mehr Fußball spielen. Busby überlebte schwerverletzt. Seine Mannschaft, Spieler, die er in seinem Klub großgemacht hatte, war tot.
Alles, was in den folgenden Jahren bei Manchester United geschah, stand im Schatten der Tragödie. United wurde von einer lokalen zu einer nationalen Angelegenheit, die ihre Erlösung am 29. Mai 1968 fand, zehn Jahre nach dem Unglück. In London gewann eine Mannschaft von Manchester United mit Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Nobby Stiles und vor allem George Best in ihren Reihen den Europapokal der Meister. Matt Busby hatte eine weitere ganz große Mannschaft geschaffen. (taz, 4. 3. 92)
[1991:] [After beating Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup quarter-finals, the 'Red Devils'] left Belgrade in mid-morning, tired, flat, anxious to get home. They were due to stop at Munich to refuel and arrive at Manchester at six o'clock. [...] Captain James Thain was in command of the charter flight. His friend Captain Ken Rayment was co-pilot. [...] The passengers were not due to disembark at Munich. Refuelling would only take twenty minutes or so. On their first attempt to take off after completing the refuelling the aircraft came to a halt after forty seconds. The engines had sounded an uneven note which suggested there was boost surging, a problem which Thain subsequently claimed 'was not uncommon with Elizabethans at the time, particularly at airports like Munich because of their height above sea-level'. [...] It was Thain's opinion that despite the uneven engine sound there was 'not much danger that the take-off power of the aircraft would be affcted because the Elizabethans were very powerful in their day and you could actually take off on one engine'.
At 14.34 hours clearance was given for another attempt. Again Thain aborted take-off forty seconds after it began, and the plane taxied back to the airport building for Thain to consult BEA's station engineer at Munich. Twenty minutes of anxiety ended for the passengers when Captain Rayment told them there would be a short delay as there was a technical fault. It was snowing quite heavily. The party left the plane for a cup of tea while the problem was being sorted out. [...] Thain and Rayment remained in the cockpit of the aircraft. Station engineer William Black came to join them to discuss the problem. The fate of Flight 609 was decided in the next five minutes. [...] Black said that the engines could be retuned but it would mean an overnight stop. Thain's reply was 'that I didn't think this was necessary because the starboard engine had performed normally'. Thain and Rayment had, in effect, decided to take a chance rather than the more prudent course of having the engines checked and retuned overnight. [...] At 15.03.06 the Elizabethan began rolling. Harry Gregg glanced at Roger Byrne sitting at the window seat diagonally across the aisle from him. 'When I saw the fear in his face it frightened me. Roger was a strong man, not easily prey to fear,' he says. 'The first two attempts to take off had been quite unnerving for me, possibly more frightening than the third time as I had been watching the wheels sticking in the slush. When we got back into the plane some of us were quite nervy. I saw the steward actually strapped into his seat when we got on which was not very reassuring. [...] I tried to crack a few jokes, but Johnny Berry, who was sitting near me, was too anxious to be amused by them and said he thought we would all be killed. Billy Whelan, who was sitting next to him, said "Well if that's going to happen I'm ready for it". We set off once again and I remember looking out of the window and seeing a tree and a house passing by; and suddenly we were passing places we had not done before. Everything went black all of a sudden and sparks began to fly. [...] The plane seemed to turn on its side, sort of upside down. There was no crying. There was just silence and blackness and then for a second there was daylight again. I thought I was dead [...]. There was a great hissing noise all around me and I realised that I was still alive and lying on my side in my seat. I unfastened my seatbelt and began to climb out. There was still no sound apart from this tremendous hissing. Captain Thain suddenly appeared holding a fire extinguisher and told me to run for it. I was about to take his advice when I heard a child crying so I crawled back into the wreckage. People outside were shouting, "Get out, get out, run for it." I shouted to them, "Come back you bastards, there are people alive inside." I found the baby and started to carry it out. The radio operator took the child from me and I went back into the débris and found her mother but she was in a bad condition. I found Albert Scanlon who was badly hurt and I tried to get him out too, but he was trapped by his feet and I couldn't move him. Peter Howard, the Daily Mail photographer, was with Albert keeping him company. I ran round to the back of the plane and found Bobby Charlton and Denis Viollet lying in a pool of water. I thought they were dead and dragged their bodies, like rag dolls, into the seats which had been thrown about twenty yards from the plane. I started calling for Jackie [Blanchflower]. As I searched for him I saw the tail end of the plane ablaze with flames. I found Matt Busby, who was conscious but holding his chest in pain. He was propped up on his elbow and did not look too badly hurt, although his foot was broken. I left him and found Blanchie, who was sitting up to his waist in water. Roger was close by him. Jackie's arm was in a bad way and bleeding badly, so I tied a tourniquet on it with my tie. I pulled so hard on it that I snapped my tie in half but managed to tie his arm with the bit that was left. [...] I turned round and got the shock of my life for there were Denis and Bobby standing, just watching the fire. I was so relieved as I had been sure that they were dead. Shortly after this, when it looked as though the rescuers had everything under control, I sank to my knees and wept, thanking God that some of us had been saved. I had never seen death before and never wanted to see it again. [...]'
Jackie Blanchflower never lost consciousness. 'It was like going down a cobbled road. The plane broke in half at the card tables. I was thrown out the top. The front part of the plane kept going. I saw it twisting round, then it stopped and a little puff of fire was coming out of it. I was lying in the slush. Roger Byrne was lying right across my feet with his eyes open. He was just in his vest and underpants, no socks or shoes on. I started talking to him. Then Harry came.' [...]
In Manchester the agony was personal. People wept openly in shops and bus-shelters. Most were too numb with shock to cry, an aching disbelief seeped into the communal soul. [...] The scale of the Munich Air Disaster became clear overnight. The following morning the newspapers reported twenty-one dead, among them seven players, coach Bert Whalley, trainer Tom Curry, secretary Walter Crickmer, and Matt Busby's businessman friend Willie Satinoff. Busby and ['Big'] Duncan Edwards were reported to be fighting for their lives. The players killed were: Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Tommie Taylor, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Billy Whelan and Geoff Bent. The journalists who perished were: Alf Clarke, Manchester Evening Chronicle; Tom Jackson, Manchester Evening News; Don Davis, Old International of the Manchester Guardian; George Follows, Daily Herald; Archie Ledbrook, Daily Mirror; Eric Thompson, Daily Mail; Frank Swift ['Big Swifty'], News of the World; and Henry Rose of the Daily Express, renowned for his populist prose. [...]
For Duncan Edwards it would never be all right again. Five days after the crash he was put on an artificial kidney. He fought for two weeks but, at 01.12 on 21 February 1958 the greatest footballer the British game had known died. He was twenty-one.[...] On 19 April 1958 Matt Busby left Rechts der Isar Hospital [at Munich] to return home. [...] As well as the eight who died, Jackie Blanchflower and John Berry were finished with football. (Eamonn Dunphy, A Strange Kind of Glory 227-255)
[1998:] At 3.04pm yesterday, 55,000 football fans stood for one minute's silence to remember the Manchester United players and others who died in the Munich air disaster exactly 40 years and a day ago. [...] The silence was followed by a roar louder than anything anybody had heard before at Old Trafford, the fans charged with emotion. The current United players seemed to give something extra in memory of the 'Busby Babes', the supremely talented team built by the late Sir Matt Busby which was wiped out. [...]
The pre-match mood was subdued, although as Harry Gregg, the United goalkeeper who survived the crash, pointed out, the really emotional time had been on Friday night, at a memorial service for the victims in Manchester Cathedral. (David Harrison, Observer, 8 Feb)
[1998:] A commemorative statue of footballing legend Duncan Edwards who died in the Munich air disaster is to be put up in his home town. [...] Dudley-born Duncan was one of the most famous of the Manchester United Busby Babes to be fatally injured when an airliner failed to take off in slushy conditions in February 1958. (Observer, 22 Feb)
[1999:] ['Reputations',] a television programme is about to portray [Sir Matt Busby] as a ruthless, tight-fisted boss who treated players badly, did little actual coaching and owed much of his success to his unsung right-hand man. [...] Several of the 'Busby babes' condemn their former gaffer. Former Irish international Johnny Giles [...] was nurtured by Busby but sold to Leeds United for daring to question his decisions [...]. Former United captain and Munich survivor Bill Foulkes tells how he had to sell his medals because United paid him so little. He is angry he got no compensation after Munich. 'Matt was the man in charge of the club. I just can't understand that one,' he says. [...] Goalkeeper Harry Gregg complains that players injured at Munich were quickly booted out by United. 'For 40-odd years I've been angry about certain things. Jackie Blanchflower was out of his (United-provided) house and on the dole in January 1959. That speaks for itself.' 'Reputations' suggests that Jimmy Murphy, United's youth team coach, was the real architect of the club's success. After Munich, Murphy took United to the FA Cup final. Busby discharged himself from hospital and turned up at Wembley in his wheelchair to steal Murphy's glory. Eamon Dunphy, who played under Busby between 1960 and 1965 and later wrote a biography of him, suspects the programme is too critical. 'He had flaws. For example, he DID keep wages as low as he could. But if he hadn't been hard, cunning and ruthless, he wouldn't have created the greatest football club in the world.' United, who erected a statue of Busby outside Old Trafford after his death in 1994, declined to comment. (Dennis Campbell, Observer, 9 May)
See also http://www.iol.ie/~redcafe/munich/farewell.htm