Why Old Trafford’s first European game was epic!

Paul Garcia Manchester United FC

MATCH REPORT

Real looked a class act from the outset and would have gone in front earlier, but for smart saves by Ray Wood to thwart Alfredo di Stefano and Mateos. Eddie Colman and Liam Whelan also had efforts for United but a real blow was delivered when Raymond Kopa made the most of some marvellous approach work by di Stefano to prod in the opener on 25 minutes. Seven minutes later, Francisco Gento’s cross was pushed out by Wood and Hector Rial netted from close range.

Trailing by four goals, the Babes mustered a comeback with Tommy Taylor scrambling the ball in, with Whelan also claiming the goal by making sure on the goalline. With four minutes left, Charlton further reduced the deficit to draw level on the night, smashing home a centre by Pegg. Taylor and Whelan had also gone close but there was to be no late drama, with Real’s professionalism in seeing out time drawing criticism from the crowd and Busby, who felt the referee should have added on some stoppage time.

THE REACTION

“It was a great game between two great sides and I’m proud of our lads,” said Busby. “Now for Wembley [and the FA Cup final against Aston Villa].”

Roger Byrne explained: “We have learned a lot. It has been a great experience, playing against continentals this season, and we look forward to playing Real again in the European Cup next season.” Sadly, of course, that did not transpire due to the Munich Air Disaster. Di Stefano was a little less gracious, commenting: “We were determined to go all out from the start. Before we played Manchester United, I thought they were a wonderful side but not now. They were better in Madrid than on their own ground.”

The Daily Mirror‘s Frank McGhee wrote: “The dream is dead. Manchester United’s bid to win the European Cup has ended in semi-final failure. Brave failure. Fighting failure. Glorious failure but that doesn’t make it any less bitter to those who cherished a proud illusion that, in United, England had the greatest football team in the world. They are not. Real Madrid are the real McCoy.” McGhee also enthused: “Di Stefano is probably the greatest player I shall ever see. He is a one-man team.”

At the Manchester Evening News, Walter Pilkington stated: “Better luck next time, Manchester United. Their dream of achieving, at the first attempt, the virtually impossible performance of winning the Football League championship, FA Cup and the European Cup in one season, has vanished.”

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