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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 13:07 GMT
Book review: Men Of Magic
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By Julian Taylor

This re-released edition of The Busby Babes: Men Of Magic, presents a fresh opportunity to appreciate the famous 1950s Manchester United family.

And it is a fitting eulogy to arguably the finest club side ever seen in English football.

Each surviving member of Sir Matt Busby's squad is interviewed, and the stories of those who died in the 1958 Munich air crash have been written from interviews with their relatives, friends and those who played with and against them.

Renowned historian Max Arthur - bestselling author of Forgotten Voices of the Great War - brings his expert and delicate handling to the tale of Busby's precocious team.

Consequently, his illuminating interviews with the survivors shine further light upon the Babes era, reminding us yet again that football, and its leading stars, have changed with the times.

The Busby Babes: Men Of Magic by Max Arthur (Mainstream)

Busby's side perfectly merged grace and power, coming of age both domestically, and, as one of English football's fledgling pioneers in Europe.

Arthur notes that these players, who tested Real Madrid in the 1956/57 European Cup semi-final, remained unchanged, despite their status, the Salford-born Eddie Colman ('the creative genius of the team,' according to England hero Billy Wright) a prime example.

As ever, the magisterial aura of Busby is etched throughout.

How the Scot, and his loyal assistant, Jimmy Murphy, moulded a team that rose alongside the post-war rubble of Old Trafford; his methods and psychology; and his desire to put United on the continental map during a period when the Football League felt such adventures were an irrelevance.

Busby was in this respect, the author believes, ahead of his time, his prodigies slamming 10 past Anderlecht and bringing Atletico Bilbao to their knees.

The testimonies of the survivors are compelling.

Not least, that of goalkeeper Harry Gregg, whose account of that fateful day leaves one in no doubt that his courage on the field was more than equalled off it.

Busby's hand-picked Babes were precious, and none more so than Duncan Edwards.

The England international, described by Bobby Charlton as 'The Greatest,' simply had everything.

Arthur reveals how the 21-year-old was as close to perfection as a footballer could be, and his rise to prominence was the stuff of dreams, his tragic death a desperate loss to both United and the football world.

The unfolding of the air crash itself is explained, but what becomes obvious, and vital, as the years pass is the description of just how good the Babes were and how they grew together.

To recall the 1957-penned 'Manchester United Calypso,' this brotherhood of homespun geniuses were, 'a bunch of bouncing Busby Babes... they deserve to be knighted.'

Arthur's story of United's never-to-be-forgotten players brings welcome sensitivity, warmth and colour to those times.

Indeed, they were, 'The Flowers of Manchester,' one and all.

Rating:

Nine stars

The Busby Babes: Men Of Magic is out now published by Mainstream

SEE ALSO
Manchester Utd's day of tragedy
01 Feb 08 |  Man Utd
Busby Babe remembers
30 Jan 08 |  Welsh
Minute's silence for Munich crash
28 Jan 08 |  Football
Man Utd to honour Munich victims
06 Dec 07 |  Man Utd


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