On 28 May 1958, Real Madrid won its third successive European Cup title beating AC Milan 3-2 after extra time. Alfredo di Stefano and Rial scored in regulation time with Paco Gento scoring in extra time for Los Blancos at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.
The result could have been completely different. The opponents could have been completely different. Milan had reached the final after defeating Manchester United 5-2 on aggregate. What is covered and not mentioned in this 5-2 scoreline is the depleted United side. Not depleted because of injuries to their players but depleted after the Munich Disaster wiped away eight members of that Matt Busby side.
After winning 5-4 on aggregate to Red Star Belgrade in the quarter-finals and returning home from Belgrade, the plane stopped for refuelling in Munich. But, unfortunately, the slush on the ground slowed the plane down and it couldn’t ascent enough as it crashed into the fence then hit a house before spinning and coming to a complete halt. The damage was done – to the plane, the passengers, the team, the club and quite possibly a great English Football history.
In the aftermath, United fielded an in-experienced side to face Milan and as expected lost in the semi-finals.
Another bit of aftermath is the amazing gesture by Red Star Belgrade and Real Madrid to have a petition to offer the European Cup to Manchester United. The petition went futile as nothing came off it. But, the history remains and the glorious gesture remains when Manchester United, at it’s most difficult time, needed it the most.
This clipping from The Sunday Sun dated February 7, 1958 highlights the amazing gesture by both clubs. Santiago Bernabeu was the president of Real Madrid at the time.
There is another story, suggested by Pick Our Team which says Real Madrid also offered Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, two of our best players at the time, to Manchester United but like the petition, it didn’t come off.
This isn’t the only time Real Madrid had shown a tremendous gesture towards an English club. In 1989, four days after the Hillsborough disaster had resulted in many Liverpool fans losing their lives, Real Madrid and AC Milan were playing a European Cup game when play was halted and a respectful applause was made towards Liverpool FC, its players and the fans.