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Man Utd to pay tribute to Wales boss who led his country to the World Cup

11 May 2021 3 minute read
Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. Photo by edwin.11 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Manchester United have agreed to install a memorial to former Wales boss Jimmy Murphy at Old Trafford.

Tagged by United fans as “the man who saved our club” following the Munich air disaster, United legend Matt Busby appointed Murphy as the club’s chief coach in 1946 before he was appointed assistant manager in 1955.

Murphy had the key role during this time of bringing through the young players that became known as the “Busby Babes”, which included both Duncan Edwards and Bobby Charlton.

In 1956 Murphey was also appointed Wales manager on a part-time basis, replacing Walley Barnes, and held onto the job for the next eight years and in 1958 led his country to its first ever World Cup Finals.

Wales reached the quarter-finals of the competition, played in Swede, before being eliminated by eventual winners Brazil following a 1-0 defeat, the only goal of the game being scored by the 17-year-old Pele.

Murphy was in charge of Wales in a game against Israel in Cardiff on 6 February 1958, the same night as Manchester United’s match against Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia. Wales’ win that night ensured they qualified for the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden.

That fixture could have saved his life, as the aircraft bringing United back from the victory in Belgrade, which had secured a semi-final spot in the European Cup, stopped to refuel at Munich and after its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway, crashed killing 23 people, including eight players and three staff members.

Team manager Busby suffered multiple injuries in the crash and twice received the last rites, but he recovered from his injuries and left the hospital after nine weeks.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster United’s directors talked about folding the club, a move Murphy strongly opposed.  He helped change their minds and temporarily took over as manager while Matt Busby recovered from his injuries, subsequently leading a rebuilt squad to the 1958 FA Cup Final.

The Premier League giants say they will place a permanent form of recognition for the former Wales wing half within the confines of the stadium footprint following an approach from supporters groups including the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation (MMMF), Association of Former Manchester United Players (AFMUP), Duncan Edwards Foundation, Big Lily, The Red Army and Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST).

The club has ruled out naming a stand after Murphy but are expected to erect a statue or equivalent form of commemoration.

Miracle worker

Former Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty in an interview with, said Murphy’s contribution to the club is not appreciated as much as it should be.

“I still do not think that Jimmy gets the credit he deserves for what he did for Manchester United. Nowhere near,” Docherty, who took over as manager in 1972 said.

“He was nothing short of a miracle worker and I think it’s a huge shame that isn’t given the attention it should.”

Despite being approached to manage Brazil, Juventus and Arsenal, Murphy remained assistant manager at Old Trafford until 1971.

He died in November 1989, aged 79 and in March 2009, a blue plaque was placed on his former family home in Treharne Street, Pentre.

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