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Madrid City in English
Sunday 9th of December 2018
Jeff Wiseman 12th of February 2013 by editor 12th of February 2013
Red and white battles

As Real Madrid prepare to welcome Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League, Jeff Wiseman looks back at the clubs’ first two meetings―semi-finals in 1957 and 1968

The European Cup (now the Champions League) was inaugurated in 1956, but it was 1957 that saw the first English and Scottish participants. The Football League had decided against participation by an English club, which would have been Chelsea, in the initial competition due to worries about fixture congestion. It was therefore Manchester United and Glasgow Rangers who set the ball rolling for the UK. Rangers were eliminated by Nice, but United reached the semi-finals, and were drawn against Real Madrid.


1957: First meeting

In progressing to that stage United had defeated Anderlecht, Borussia Dortmund and Atletic Bilbao. Under the guidance and managership of Matt Busby, the young team had been christened the “Busby Babes”, and had won the previous year’s English title by an enormous 11 points, at a time when only two points were awarded for a win. The first leg of the game took place at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium on 11 April, when Real Madrid were the football powerhouse of Europe. They had won the 1956 European Cup, and would retain it, for a record five consecutive years, until 1960. When United visited, Real’s forward line could boast Kopa, Di Stéfano and Gento.

            Real won the game 3-1. Their first two goals came from Rial and Di Stefano, with United’s Tommy Taylor pulling one back in the 82nd minute. Had United been able to hold just a one goal deficit, the story may have been different, but Mateos shot home for Real two minutes later. The return match at Old Trafford, on the 24 April, ended in a 2-2 draw, after Real had taken a two goal lead. The second United goalscorer that night was Bobby Charlton. Real qualified, and went on to win the trophy with a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina of Italy.

            There will always be questions about whether that talented United team would have challenged Real’s position in the years that followed, but less than 12 months later, as United were returning from a European Cup game in Belgrade, their plane stopped to refuel in Munich. The tragic air crash occurred, and one of football’s darkest hours saw the loss of 23 lives, including eight of the United players. Matt Busby was a survivor; over the next ten years he slowly but surely rebuilt the team, and would lead them again to their second clash with Real in 1968.

11 April, 1957. European Cup, Semi final, first leg

Santiago Bernabéu

Real Madrid 3, Manchester United 1

Real Madrid: Alonso, Becerril, Marquitos, Lesmes, Muñoz, Zárraga, Kopa, Mateos, Di Stéfano, Rial, Gento.

Manchester United: Wood, Foulkes, Byrne, Colman, Blanchflower, Edwards, Berry, Whelan, Taylor, Viollet, Pegg.

Goals: 1-0 (Rial 61’), 2-0 (Di Stéfano 73´), 2-1 (Taylor 82´), 3-1 (Mateos 84´).

25 Apr 1957. European Cup, Semi final, second leg

Old Trafford

Manchester United 2, Real Madrid 2

Manchester United: Wood, Foulkes, Byrne, Blanchflower, Colman, Edwards, Berry, Whelan, Taylor, Charlton, Pegg.

Real Madrid: Alonso, Torres, Marquitos, Lesmes, Muñoz, Zárraga, Kopa, Mateos, Di Stéfano, Rial, Gento.

Goals: 0-1 (Kopa 25´), 0-2 (Rial 32´), 1-2 (Taylor 52´), 2-2 (Charlton 87´).

(Real Madrid won 5-3 on aggregate.)


1968: Second meeting

Prior to coming up against Real, United had eliminated Hibernians, Sarajevo and Górnik Zabrze. On this occasion, the first leg of the semi-final took place at Old Trafford. Gento was still playing for Real, and they were still a force to be reckoned with, but the United line up included George Best, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law, and of course Bobby Charlton. Best struck in the 36th minute to give United a narrow lead to take to Madrid.

            The return at the Bernabéu was on 15 May, and United were two goals down by the 41st minute. An own goal by Zoco looked to give them a lifeline just before half time, but then Amancio pounced in the final minute of the half to provide Real with a 3-1 lead. It was, however, to be United’s night―David Sadler pulled a goal back to make it 3-2, and then, in the 80th minute, Bill Foulkes slotted the ball home, and the tie ended 3-3. United qualified for the European Cup Final at Wembley, where they would lift the trophy after a hugely emotional 4-1 victory against Benfica. That Bill Foulkes scored the important goal at the Bernabéu was more than appropriate―together with Busby and Charlton, he was the only member of the team connected with the first game with Real in 1957, and one of the survivors of the Munich disaster. (Photo: Sir Bobby Charlton in 2010. Flickr: The Centre for School Design.)

24 Apr 1968. European Cup, Semi Final, first leg 

Old Trafford 

Manchester United 1, Real Madrid 0

Manchester United: Stepney, Dunne, Sadler, Burns, Crerand, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Law, Aston.

Real Madrid: Betancort, Zunzunegui, González, Sanchís, Pirri, Zoco, Miguel Pérez, José Luis, Grosso, Velázquez, Gento.

Goal: 1-0 (Best 36´).

15 May 1968. European Cup, Semi Final, second leg

Santiago Bernabéu

Real Madrid 3, Manchester United 3

Real Madrid: Betancort, González, Zunzunegui, Sanchís, Pirri, Zoco, Miguel Pérez, Amancio, Grosso, Velázquez, Gento.

Manchester United: Stepney, Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston.

Goals: 1-0 (Pirri 32´), 2-0 (Gento 41´), 2-1 (Zoco, og 44´), 3-1 (Amancio 45´), 3-2 (Sadler 73´), 3-3 (Foulkes 80´).

(United won 4-3 on aggregate.)

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