Manchester United paid tribute to the victims of the Munich air crash on Tuesday, with a memorial service held at Old Trafford to mark the 60th anniversary of the disaster which claimed 23 lives.
Eight of the legendary ‘Busby Babes’ team built by manager Sir Matt Busby were among those who died as the United team plane ran into trouble on the runway at Munich-Riem Airport on February 6, 1958 after making a refuelling stop on the return journey from their European Cup quarter-final second leg against Red Star Belgrade the previous day.
And on Tuesday the club opened up its stadium to supporters for a gathering in memory of those who died 60 years ago. Just over 4,500 fans joined a congregation of club players and staff in the East Stand for the 40-minute service.
The afternoon began with words from the club chaplain Reverend John Boyers, and there were also readings by United director Michael Edelson, legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson and executive vice-chair Ed Woodward.
A roll of honour was delivered, paying tribute to the 23 victims, who included Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan.
Following a moment of silence at 15:04GMT, the exact time of the crash in 1958, there was a moving rendition of the song The Flowers of Manchester by Pete Martin.
United captain Michael Carrick and manager Jose Mourinho then stepped up to lay wreaths on the specially-erected stage at the side of the Old Trafford pitch before those assembled sang the traditional football hymn Abide With Me.
Sir Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg, the two remaining players from the 1958 side were also present, with Gregg having earlier been present at United’s Carrington training ground to meet current players and staff.
Guests at the event include FIFA president Gianni Infantino, UEFA vice-president Fernando Gomez, PFA chief-executive Gordon Taylor, Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee and former Liverpool player and manager Kenny Dalglish. There were also representatives of the Manchester FA, Bishop Auckland – the club which loaned a number of players to United in the aftermath of the crash – and Sheffield Wednesday, United’s first opponents following Munich.
Ceremonies also took place in Munich and Belgrade on Tuesday as part of the remembrance proceedings.