Matt Busby has Manchester United’s attacking trio of Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law back in his sights.
A statue of the 1968 European Cup winning manager looms large outside Old Trafford and another statue of the three players – the “United Trinity” – was unveiled Thursday facing the stadium. Sir Matt Busby Way separates the two installations.
“It really is fantastic we are facing Sir Matt Busby on the opposite side,” Law said. “For me, coming down as a young boy from Scotland, to think I’ve now got a statue outside Manchester United’s ground is a script you couldn’t possibly write.”
The larger than life-size bronze artwork was unveiled on the 40th anniversary of the three-time European champion’s first triumph and eight days after United coach Sir Alex Ferguson won his second Champions League title in Moscow.
Ferguson was joined by the surviving members of Busby’s 1968 squad, with Charlton and Law taking centre stage.
“It’s important to recognize our history because players like Bobby, Denis and George created very much the history of Manchester United,” said Ferguson, who has just completed his 22nd season managing United by also winning a 10th Premier League title.
The season has been tinged with a sombre 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, which ripped apart the “Busby Babes,” and Ferguson was keen to produce a fitting tribute on the pitch to the team that was heading for European glory in 1958.
“You can’t beat history because, through history, you can look to have a better future and try and match that,” Ferguson told a ceremony beneath the statue bathed in sunlight. “It pleased me so much that we did our bit last week to create our own history at this football club. Fantastic.”
Ferguson first won the Champions League in 1999 with a late win over Bayern Munich on what would have been Busby’s 90th birthday. And last week’s success over Chelsea on penalty kicks in Moscow didn’t finish until the early hours of Thursday morning, meaning that the players lifted the trophy 62 years after Best’s birth in Belfast.
Sculptor Philip Jackson, who produced the statue of Busby in 1995, was commissioned to design a tribute to Best following his death in 2005 at age 59 after a decades-long battle with alcoholism.
“He’s always here in spirit with us,” Ferguson said. “And when you saw Ronaldo last Wednesday, many people were thinking of George Best.”
The statue depicts Law’s famed arm-aloft goal celebration, with Best and Charlton either side of him leaning on the Scottish striker, who still holds the club record of 44 goals in a season.
“It looks like me, which I’m very pleased about because when I saw it the first time it didn’t,” said Charlton, now a United director. “It’s definitely George and me – Denis maybe has a little bit too much muscle.”
Charlton paid tribute to his mentor Busby. Both survived the Munich disaster which killed eight of their swashbuckling side.
“(Busby) started it all off, the adventurous side of Manchester United and it continues,” Charlton said next to the statue. “The philosophy of the manager and the coach Jimmy Murphy and the way we were pointed . . . play attractive football and never be dull.
“It rubbed off on the three of us fortunately and we had major success with it. It’s a great club and it’s right they should have something like this. Every fan that comes will feel a little bit better when they see it.”
Charlton believes Ferguson and Ryan Giggs, the Welsh winger who eclipsed his United all-time appearance record in Moscow last week, will be the next United greats to be immortalized on Sir Matt Busby Way.
“Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs will be here – what more can they do – they deserve it,” said Charlton, England’s record goal scorer.
Image details: Manchester United Trinity Statue Unveiled served by picapp.com