From The Archives: The European Cup Final 1968

In this week’s edition, we take a look at United’s first European Final triumph ahead of the clash against Ajax on Wednesday. We take our longest walk down memory lane yet, going as far back as 1968.

The 1967-68 European Cup was pretty straightforward for United but the semi-finals against Real Madrid proved a little tricky. A 1-0 win at home secured United’s place in the final at Wembley after a 3-3 away draw in the second leg. Benfica, led by the mercurial Eusebio, more or less breezed their way into the final conceding just two goals along the way.

The first half of the match passed without much event, though Eusebio did hit the post from a free-kick. But, the match turned on its head after a Sir Bobby Charlton goal eight minutes into the second period. It was a rare header for the United legend. Following the goal, George Best bundled the ball into the empty net but was disallowed for offside. United could not hold on to the lead though. Benfica equalised through Graca on the 80th-minute mark. Eusebio had a run at United’s goal late on and squirmed past 2 players before shooting. The powerful shot was somehow saved by Alex Stephany, with Eusebio himself applauding the save. The match remained all square at the end of regulation time.

Extra time saw the match turn on its head yet again, with three goals in the space of just seven minutes. All goals were scored by United. The first goal was scored by George Best, who had already seen a goal disallowed for offside. Capitalising on a defensive error, Best rounded the keeper and knocked the ball home into the empty net. Then it was Brian Kidd’s turn to score. Kidd had a point-blank header saved but the parry fell right back to him. On the second bite of the cherry, Kidd looped a header into the unguarded net. United’s fourth and Charlton’s second came just before the 100th-minute mark. Kidd escaped his man on the right and put a sweeping cross into the box. Charlton was on hand to divert the ball into the far post before celebrating in front of a partisan Wembley crowd.

The man-of-the-match award was given to United’s Dean Ashton. It was United’s first European triumph coming just 10 years after the Munich Tragedy, which left eight players dead and coach Matt Busby hanging onto his life. Busby made a full recovery and survivors Charlton and Bill Foulkes both played in the match. It was a watershed moment in United’s history.