I was lucky when I first used to go to Manchester United matches, over fifty years ago. Although the team was in the painful early stages of recovery from the Munich Air Crash they still often managed to play wonderfully expressive football in keeping with the finest traditions of the club.Take this description of United’s quicksilver style, written by ex-1930s Arsenal star Bernard Joy for a London paper prior to the Red Devils meeting the Gunners at Highbury in April 1960, under the heading ‘Busby Can Lead England Back To The Top’:
‘United play a simpler and purer type of football (than champions Wolves) which is more likely to lead England back to world supremacy. United do not rely on specialists. They believe in footballers who can fill more than one position…But for injuries United would have had five inside forwards forming the attack at Highbury today – 19-year old Irishman John Giles, £45,000 Albert Quixall, Dennis Viollet, Mark Pearson and Bobby Charlton…This strange-looking attack succeeds because the players go where the initiative and the opportunity takes them. Each in turn is the forager, each a winger, each a spearhead thrusting at goal. The emphasis is on skill and positional play. The line is reminiscent of that of the Rest of the World at Wembley in 1953 , which contained three centre-forwards…What brilliant teamwork they displayed.’ ( Evening Standard, 23 April, 1960)
I read this article in the London Underground on my way to see United for only the fourth time and perhaps you can imagine the glow of pride I felt as I read these words of praise about my team from one of the most respected voices in the game.I was heading for the Arsenal Stadium, fore-runner of the Emirates,which always had a special presence as one of the great football venues.It represented so much that was admirable about British football. What could be better than Arsenal v Manchester United in such a setting?
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