According to Sir Alex Ferguson, the reason that Dimitar Berbatov struggled to settle into Old Trafford in his first two seasons was purely because of the size of his club record transfer fee. “When we buy a player for a lot of money there is more focus on him” he said “if they have an odd bad game there is a criticism which other players may not get”. It’s a factor which was well understood by Sir Matt Busby when he agreed to pay Barnsley the odd amount of £29,999 for centre forward Tommy Taylor way back in in March 1953, a fee agreed so that Taylor would not be burdened with the label of a £30,000 player and the story goes that a tea lady was the beneficiary of the extra pound!
In a week when Manchester United begin another Champions League campaign, we should remember one of the most blinkered decisions ever taken in the history of English football. When Chelsea won their first ever League title in 1955 they were forced to withdraw from the inaugural European Cup competition by the then Football League secretary Alan Hardaker who feared that the new competition would create too much fixture congestion. That shameful decision was not surprising because the British had a history of being suspicious of international football as shown by the fact that none of the home teams entered the World Cup until 20 years after its inception.
The Munich air crash in 1958 en route home from a European Cup quarter final success in Belgrade became a defining feature of United’s identity. The improbable Champions League finale 41 years later against Bayern Munich in Barcelona embellished the legend the late, two goal flourish consistent with the thrill demand lay down by Sir Matt Busby’s Babes.