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Classic Final Goals

Tragedy and triumph

A decade after the Munich air disaster, Sir Bobby Charlton sealed Manchester United’s conquest of Europe

WORDS Chris Burke | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

Read the full story
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Literally. The marauding midfielder was positioned behind the forward line in United’s 4-3-3, the launchpad for his countless outrageous goals from distance, his right boot seemingly packed with gunpowder. Against Benfica, however, there was none of that. Instead, Charlton’s two decisive touches were all deftness and subtle precision, enabled by a striker’s predatory instinct.

First came the opening goal shortly after half-time, Charlton leaping to head in David Sadler’s cross, that famous comb-over flapping like a barn door in the Wembley breeze. And it almost proved enough, only for Jaime Graça to rifle in a late equaliser. By then, Busby had already started to fear his players were flagging, but he need not have worried. In the first nine minutes of extra time, United plundered three unanswered goals, George Best opening the floodgates by rounding goalkeeper José Henrique before Brian Kidd nodded in on his 19th birthday. 

A year previously, the teenage forward had approached Charlton during a nervy period of the title run-in. What he got back was a simple bit of advice: “Give me the ball and we’ll be all right.” Clearly the message stuck as the duo then combined to secure United’s victory – twice, in fact, because what the excitable Pathé newsreel doesn’t show is Charlton’s role in the build-up, the skipper accepting Kidd’s lay-off and freeing his young team-mate down the right with a single touch.

It was quick, it was slick, and the duo were about to connect again, though not before Kidd skipped past a lunging challenge. Charlton, in the meantime, had jogged into the area, sensing opportunity. And the jog became a sprint as Kidd approached the byline looking for options. As instructed, he fed the ball to his captain once again. As promised, Charlton did the rest, racing to meet the cutback between two defenders and swivelling his hips to lift a shot across his body and into the far corner. 

For Benfica, there was no way back. The goal sealed United’s place as England’s first European champions, but that was a secondary matter for Charlton and Busby as they embraced at full time. Here were two men who had lost dear friends a decade before, who had left Munich utterly transformed, and yet somehow they had pulled together to lead a shattered club to glory. 

Later that evening, United’s humble hero missed the team’s celebratory banquet, too emotionally drained to attend. “He’s remembering the lads who can’t be here tonight,” explained his wife Norma. In Manchester, Munich and beyond, Sir Bobby Charlton now joins the list of the remembered. 

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

Tragedy and triumph
Classic Final Goals

Tragedy and triumph

A decade after the Munich air disaster, Sir Bobby Charlton sealed Manchester United’s conquest of Europe

WORDS Chris Burke | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Literally. The marauding midfielder was positioned behind the forward line in United’s 4-3-3, the launchpad for his countless outrageous goals from distance, his right boot seemingly packed with gunpowder. Against Benfica, however, there was none of that. Instead, Charlton’s two decisive touches were all deftness and subtle precision, enabled by a striker’s predatory instinct.

First came the opening goal shortly after half-time, Charlton leaping to head in David Sadler’s cross, that famous comb-over flapping like a barn door in the Wembley breeze. And it almost proved enough, only for Jaime Graça to rifle in a late equaliser. By then, Busby had already started to fear his players were flagging, but he need not have worried. In the first nine minutes of extra time, United plundered three unanswered goals, George Best opening the floodgates by rounding goalkeeper José Henrique before Brian Kidd nodded in on his 19th birthday. 

A year previously, the teenage forward had approached Charlton during a nervy period of the title run-in. What he got back was a simple bit of advice: “Give me the ball and we’ll be all right.” Clearly the message stuck as the duo then combined to secure United’s victory – twice, in fact, because what the excitable Pathé newsreel doesn’t show is Charlton’s role in the build-up, the skipper accepting Kidd’s lay-off and freeing his young team-mate down the right with a single touch.

It was quick, it was slick, and the duo were about to connect again, though not before Kidd skipped past a lunging challenge. Charlton, in the meantime, had jogged into the area, sensing opportunity. And the jog became a sprint as Kidd approached the byline looking for options. As instructed, he fed the ball to his captain once again. As promised, Charlton did the rest, racing to meet the cutback between two defenders and swivelling his hips to lift a shot across his body and into the far corner. 

For Benfica, there was no way back. The goal sealed United’s place as England’s first European champions, but that was a secondary matter for Charlton and Busby as they embraced at full time. Here were two men who had lost dear friends a decade before, who had left Munich utterly transformed, and yet somehow they had pulled together to lead a shattered club to glory. 

Later that evening, United’s humble hero missed the team’s celebratory banquet, too emotionally drained to attend. “He’s remembering the lads who can’t be here tonight,” explained his wife Norma. In Manchester, Munich and beyond, Sir Bobby Charlton now joins the list of the remembered. 

For years, English travellers  in far-flung outposts of the globe would invariably hear two words upon revealing their nationality. From Caracas to Casablanca, from gin joints to border crossings, a curious greeting had entered the universal lexicon, a guaranteed ice-breaker and perhaps the start of a beautiful friendship… “Bobby Charlton!”

It was a refrain often boomed out by commentators too. A phrase that poured from TVs and radios around the world. The English football legend, who passed away aged 86 in October, owed much of his appeal to a quiet, old-school humility, but it was his searing talent, and penchant for spectacular goals, that truly carried his name across the planet. And he gave the men with microphones another two chances to perfect their pronunciation on 29 May 1968.

Charlton was captain of a Manchester United side walking out at Wembley to face two-time winners Benfica in the European Cup final. He was, of course, also a survivor of the Munich air disaster, along with manager Matt Busby and team-mate Bill Foulkes. The tragedy had taken the lives of eight United players and 15 other people ten years earlier. Just 20 at the time, Charlton had been flung from the wreckage with cuts, shock and a lifetime of trauma to come, and many believe he was never the same again, his brother Jack later writing he “stopped smiling” that terrible day.

Busby, meanwhile, had been so injured in the crash he was twice read the last rites, and the charismatic Scottish coach only returned to full duties months later, still overcome with grief. His spry young team of ‘Busby Babes’ had been torn apart on one unthinkable night, but gradually he set about forging a new side – with Charlton at the heart of the rebuilding process.

Remarkably, a club that many speculated would have to fold went on to clinch the English title in 1964/65 and 1966/67, and now they had reached their maiden European Cup showpiece. For Charlton, that meant a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, the stadium where he helped England defeat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. He had been relatively subdued that afternoon, tasked with stifling Franz Beckenbauer; this time he would be right there, front and centre.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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