Sunday 22 July 2018

'It was very fitting, a beautiful service - powerful, emotional' - Manchester United players and fans remember Munich victims

Denis Irwin with members of the MUFC Leicestershire Supporters' Club for 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative event in Munich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Mark Mann-Bryans/PA Wire.
Denis Irwin with members of the MUFC Leicestershire Supporters' Club for 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative event in Munich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Mark Mann-Bryans/PA Wire.
Fans arrive at Old Trafford in Manchester for the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Simon Peach/PA Wire.
Bayern Munich's President Uli Hoeness, CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and former Bavarian politician Hermann Memmel, from left, attend a commemoration ceremony on the Manchester place at the Munich Riem airport, southern Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1958 a plane with professional players of the Manchester United soccer club on board crashed in Munich with 21 survivors and 23 fatalities. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)
Soccer fans attend a commemoration ceremony on the Manchester place at the Munich Riem airport, southern Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1958 a plane with professional players of the Manchester United soccer club on board crashed in Munich with 21 survivors and 23 fatalities. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)
Members of the MUFC Leicestershire Supporters' Club next to the Manchesterplatz in Munich for the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative event. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Mark Mann-Bryans/PA Wire.
Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness (L) and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge take part in a memorial service marking 60 years since Manchester United plane crash in Munich, Germany February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
A wreath is pictured during a memorial service marking 60 years since Manchester United plane crash in Munich, Germany February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
Street name 'Manchesterplatz' is pictured during a memorial service marking 60 years since Manchester United plane crash in Munich, Germany February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
Tributes at Old Trafford in Manchester for the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Simon Peach/PA Wire.
Fans arrive at Old Trafford in Manchester for the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Simon Peach/PA Wire.
A view of the memorial clock at Old Trafford in Manchester ahead of the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Simon Peach/PA Wire.
Flowers lie on a memorial during a commemoration ceremony on the Manchester place at the Munich Riem airport, southern Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1958 a plane with professional players of the Manchester United soccer club on board crashed in Munich with 21 survivors and 23 fatalities. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)
Soccer fans attend a commemoration ceremony on the Manchester place at the Munich Riem airport, southern Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1958 a plane with professional players of the Manchester United soccer club on board crashed in Munich with 21 survivors and 23 fatalities. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)
A Team photo of the forme Manchester United soccer club and flowers are placed next to a memorial during a commemoration ceremony on the Manchester place at the Munich Riem airport, southern Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1958 a plane with professional players of the Manchester United on board crashed in Munich with 21 survivors and 23 fatalities. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)
A view of the Order of service for the 60 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster commemorative ceremony at Old Trafford in Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 6, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Simon Peach/PA Wire.

Simon Peach

Manchester United stars past and present stood in silent solidarity at Old Trafford to mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.

At 3.04pm on February 6, 1958, slush on the runway in Germany prevented United's plane from reaching take-off speed and led to a crash that killed 23 people.

Eight first-team players and three long-serving members of staff were among those to die as Sir Matt Busby's United made their way back from a European Cup match at Red Star Belgrade.

Eight journalists, the co-pilot, cabin steward, travel agent and a United supporter were also killed in the crash that only 21 people survived.

Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg were among the survivors and both men attended Tuesday's emotional Old Trafford occasion, along with families of the players, staff, media and friends.

More than 4,500 supporters joined them in the East Stand, as former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, director Michael Edelson and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward gave readings.

The trio wore commemorative ties featuring names of those who perished in Munich, while United manager Jose Mourinho and captain Michael Carrick laid wreaths after a minute's silence at 3.04pm.

"It was very fitting, a beautiful service - powerful, emotional," midfielder Carrick told MUTV.

"For me, it was emotional sitting next to Sir Bobby and coming to terms with what he's been through. It was tough but a pleasure to be part of."

United's first-team all attended what defender Chris Smalling called a "very moving service," while midfielder Paul Pogba said the victims would be "forever remembered".

Ahead of the ceremony, long-serving Ashley Young expressed the disaster's lasting impact at United.

"The Munich Air Disaster is something I was always aware of growing up but in truth I didn't understand its influence on @ManUtd until I joined the club," he posted on Twitter.

"The lows of February 1958 that ultimately led to the highs of Wembley 1968 are inspiring to every player that has the honour to pull on the United shirt.

"Today we remember and mourn but we must also take inspiration from the response to the tragedy and people like Sir Bobby Charlton. It's a privilege for all of us to still have him around and active at Manchester United.

"You still sing about Sir Matt Busby and about playing football "the Busby way". We have a duty to keep that spirit alive and keep making you proud to support this team.

"Keep the red flag flying high and join me, my team-mates, the staff at the club and millions of fans around the world in remembering The Busby Babes. The Flowers of Manchester"

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, UEFA vice-president Fernando Gomes, Manchester City ambassador Mike Summerbee and Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish were also in attendance at a ceremony led by club chaplain Rev John Boyers.

"Those flowers of Manchester produced seeds which later were to bloom," the club chaplain said.

"One of the great legacies of Sir Matt's management at this club is the emphasis on youth, homegrown talent.

"The Busby Babes pioneered an ethos that is still important to this club. Today,

the past and the future are linked."

A minute's silence was followed by Pete Martin's rendition of The Flowers of Manchester, while former goalkeeper Gregg, who spent time at the United training ground earlier in the day, sung along with Abide With Me as the ceremony ended.

Events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the disaster were also held in Munich and Belgrade.

Around 2,000 fans gathered in Germany for a fan-organised ceremony attended by club ambassador Denis Irwin and senior United executives, along with some surviving doctors and nurses involved in the treatment of manager Busby and his team.

Meanwhile, Nicky Butt's Under-19 team, who play FK Brodarac in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday, observed a minute's silence at Partizan Stadium in Belgrade - the venue for the European Cup quarter-final between Red Star and United.

The club crest and '#FlowersOfManchester' was displayed on the front of Wembley Stadium, while Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to those killed and injured in Munich.

"Today marks an important and sombre anniversary in the history of this great city," she said in a speech in Manchester.

"Sixty years ago today the Munich air disaster claimed the lives of 23 people, with many more suffering life-changing injuries.

"The crew, journalists and, of course, the talented footballers who died that day will never be forgotten."

Online Editors

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