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What if: The Munich air disaster never took place

Arvind Sriram
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
12.23K   //    10 Sep 2016, 12:23 IST
Manchester United, Munich Air disaster
Manchester United fans hold banners in remembrance of the Munich air disaster

Almost every person on this planet has thought of how things might have turned out had a certain incident happened differently. Few events may not be worth much but a few have changed the course of history.

One such event, it is unfair to call it just an event, it is more a tragedy, is the Munich air disaster of 1958 which shook the very foundations of English football and left England’s most successful team on the brink of utter devastation.

Manchester United, under the command of Matt Busby, had chartered a flight for their trip to Belgrade. After their European Cup game against Red Star, on their return journey home, the flight stopped at a refuelling station in Munich. After 2 failed attempts at a takeoff, the pilot tried a third time but was unable to get enough speed and elevation which resulted in the plane careening off the runway and eventually crashing into a house 100 yards ahead. 

In that instant, a huge slice of English football history was lost forever. An entire team was eliminated from the face of the earth just as they stood on the verge of greatness.

Also read: What if: Steven Gerrard had never slipped against Chelsea

44 people were on the plane including players, journalists, club officials and a few others and 23 of them died either instantly or later in the hospital.

But what if that incident never happened? What if the slush that caused the crash had not built up on the wings and the flight had taken off successfully? What if the players returned to Manchester for a cold bath, a few beers and a chat about their next game?

Here we take a look at what might have transpired had nothing gone wrong on that ill-fated day of February 6th.

1) Manchester United would have been the first British side to win the European cup

Manchester United, European Cup
Manchester United won the European Cup for the first time in 1968 but could’ve easily done so much earlier

Manchester United had their best ever squad in history in the mid to late 50s and were well on course to making history in the European Cup (now called the Champions League). The “Busby Babes” as they were commonly referred to had already broken a record the previous year after thrashing Anderlecht 10-0 in the competition. They had also just made it to the semi-finals of the 1958 edition after a 3-3 draw away at Red Star Belgrade when their plane went down on the journey home.

Considered favourites for the title, United were expected to ease past the competition and potentially face Real Madrid in the finals. After their team was torn apart, though, the Red Devils succumbed to Milan in the semis who in turn fell to Real Madrid in the finals.

While most experts felt United could have easily won at least three cups in succession had their team stayed intact, the reality was that the Old Trafford side would have to wait until 10 years later before finally lifting the coveted trophy. 

Meanwhile, Celtic became the first British side to lift the trophy after their victory in 1967.

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Arvind Sriram
SENIOR ANALYST
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