By Roy Cavanagh
That Manchester United reached their second successive FA Cup Final was in itself a miracle. Three months before the final, the team had been virtually wiped out in the Munich Air Disaster as the team returned from qualifying for the semi final for the European Cup.
Refuelling at Munich, the plane carrying the team, officials and journalists crashed on its third take off. Whilst so many people fought for the actual future of the club because of this disaster, one man above all others ensured that Manchester United would continue. That man was Jimmy Murphy and his name should never be forgotten by Manchester United fans.
During the course of this return to Wembley Stadium, I actually saw my first FA Cup match live when Ipswich Town arrived at Old Trafford for the fourth round tie. As it turned out, it would be the last occasion that the side known as the ‘Busby Babes’ actually played a match at Old Trafford.
I was in the Stretford End paddock stood on the ledge behind the picket fence, ironically with what would happen in Munich a couple of weeks later – snow piled up having been swept off the pitch to enable the game to go ahead.
United had beaten Workington Town away in the Third Round, again as in the previous season, watched by a record crowd which still stands for the club. Ipswich Town were then in the Second Division, managed by Alf Ramsey and with Gary Bailey’s father, Roy, in goal. Two goals from a young Bobby Charlton settled the match and ensured what was to be a Fifth Round tie at Old Trafford against Sheffield Wednesday. Of the team that played in this match, some would not be alive less than two weeks later; Gregg, Foulkes, Byrne, Colman, Jones, Edwards, Morgans, Charlton, Taylor, Viollet and Scanlon.
Before that match took place, the tragedy of Munich happened and as I was a young lad aged 11 at the time, it was devastating. It is hard to put down how it affected everybody, in my case I just could not go to a match again that season because they were my heroes and they were no more.
Two matches I did see on television though were the semi-final replay against Fulham at Highbury which was played on a Wednesday afternoon and, surprisingly for those times, shown live on BBC.
It was enough for me to skip off school, although it was a bit of a desperate way of doing it as I stood on a nail to get the day off! The grainy black and white pictures showed a marvellous hat-trick from Alex Dawson helping United win through 5-3 to put them in the final.
Incredibly for the second successive season, Manchester United suffered an injury to their goalkeeper in the FA Cup final which decided the match. This time it was Harry Gregg who was involved as Bolton Wanderers centre forward Nat Lofthouse crashed into his back as Harry had turned after parrying a shot up in the air. Just how the referee could have allowed it was a real mystery, especially to this young Salford lad, but allow he did and it made the score 2-0 to Bolton which gave them the coveted FA Cup.
From the following season I would be a regular supporter of matches live at Old Trafford and certain away matches. The FA Cup matches I went to were always special but would I ever see Manchester United win the FA Cup?
Next up in our FA Cup final series in 1962/3. Manchester United were into their third FA Cup final in seven years. Could they avoid making it three consecutive final defeats with a game against Leicester City?