This Wednesday Villarreal will seek their first major European title and will do so against a rival, Manchester United, who embodies the purest epic of football. A great club based on successes, but with a spirit forged also based on tragedies. And, in sports, one of the last episodes of United’s epic took place on May 26, 1999 at the Camp Nou: their comeback in the Champions League final against Bayern, with 2 goals in injury time (2 -1).
According to Tom Tyrreil, author of the book ‘Manchester United’, United “is not just a Manchester club” and the bond that binds it to its fans “is not only due to the successes it has achieved in the past, but also to the bad moments, like the aerial catastrophe that ended the lives of several of its players in 1958 ”.
Several times about to disappear
United, founded in 1878 by workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, has faced serious difficulties throughout its history. Several times it was on the verge of disappearing (as in 1902, when it was on the verge of bankruptcy, or after the crash of 1929).
The spirit of Manchester United is in OId Trafford, their home since 1910. As Tom Tyrrell wrote, when it was inaugurated “never seen in England such a large stadium, such a beautiful place to showcase football talents.”
On March 11, 1941, during World War II, the city of Manchester suffered one of its most terrible bombings. As Tyrrell writes, “German planes broke the night air, sowing death and destruction in their wake.” The main stand at Old Trafford was destroyed, other parts of the facility were set on fire and Nazi bombs caused huge craters on the pitch. The City, his citizen rival, invited him to play at the Maine Road Stadium while it was rebuilt.
Once rebuilt in 1949, Old Trafford was the scene of great football afternoons. Under the legendary Sir Matt Busby, United won the third league in its history in 1952, the fourth in 1956 and the fifth in 1957. But the Munich air tragedy came. Eight of the young figures of that triumphant United died in an accident that occurred on February 5, 1958 in that German city, when the team was returning from a European Cup match against Red Star.
But United knew how to overcome that great catastrophe as well. One of the survivors from Munich was Bobby Charlton. in those moments at the beginning of his career and later the flag of a great Manchester and a great England that was proclaimed world champion at Wembley.
Like soccer’s “greats”, United went through it all to keep their spirit intact, if not more alive than ever, and to continue to experience moments of glory in the 1960s. Neither the bombs nor the air disaster could destroy him, but according to observers “the difficulties increased the pride and passion with which Manchester is followed.”
With Best and Charlton, the first European Cup
United were the first English club to win the European Cup. He did it in 1968 when Benfica won with a luxury team in which George Best and Bobby Charlton shone with all the light of their football and their personality. The old club lived that May 29, 1968 a culminating moment. From then until today, the OId Trafford team has been through good times and bad, streaks of success and failure. Its impact on society goes beyond mere sports.
After that first European Cup achieved in 1968, came the 1998-99. The one in which Mario Basler advanced to Bayern in the 5th minute at the Camp Nou, and when the Munich players almost celebrated the title Teddy Sheringham (91 ‘) and now United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (93’) turned the game around to Sir Alex Ferguson’s team in one of the most exciting finals in living memory. The Europa League against Villarreal will be, like that, on May 26. United’s third and so far last Champions League was 2007-08 after beating Chelsea on penalties (6-5 after 1-1, Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Sir Alex Ferguson’s, Frank Lampard for those led by Avram Grant.
United also have in their showcases a Recopa (1990-91, after defeating Barcelona in the final), a Europa League (2016-17, under José Mourinho) and a European Super Cup (1991). Some showcases to which he wants to add a new Europa League this Wednesday against Villarreal de Unai Emery after proclaiming himself runner-up in the Premier. A new chapter in the history of a club used to facing great difficulties and getting ahead.