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History features

You are in: Manchester > History > History features > Munich: what if?

Tom Clare, Manchester United fan

Tom Clare

Munich: what if?

As a young fan, Tom Clare was in awe of the Busby Babes. This week, he has flown from 6,000 miles from Houston to pay his respects to the players so tragically lost in the Munich air disaster. Here, he speculates: what if Munich had never happened?

It is rather ironic that the preceding 10 days before the Munich tragedy happened, shaped the future and destiny of Manchester United Football Club.

The decision to hire a charter aircraft for the trip to Belgrade and the death of George Whittaker, a United director in London, on February 1st 1958 had enormous effects on the Club’s future. 

Manchester United in 1957

Manchester United in 1957

But for the sad events of the first week in February 1958, it is more than likely that Louis Edwards would never have been invited to become a director of Manchester United Football Club and that his son, Martin, would never have known any involvement with the club at all during his lifetime.

If the club had not chartered an aircraft specifically for that trip and had used normal commercial schedules, there would have been no accident. 

If there had been no accident, Willie Satinoff, the only supporter to travel on that ill fated trip, would have survived. Satinoff is very much a forgotten figure, but his role could have been pivotal in the future of Manchester United.

A different chairman?

Mr Satinoff had made his money in the cotton trade in and around the Manchester area. Outside of his business interests, his main pastime was following Manchester United Football Club, and he was fanatical in his support for his beloved club. 

"If there had been no accident, Willie Satinoff would have survived. And it is more than possible that he would have eventually have become Chairman."

Tom Clare, Manchester United fan

Willie was close to Matt Busby. So close in fact, that he had travelled with the United team on all of their European exploits since their journey began in the 1956/57 season. 

After the death of George Whittaker, it is almost certain that Willie Satinoff would have been elected onto the Manchester United Board in his place.

It is my opinion that he would have served on the Board for a long, long time, as he was only 48 at the time and it is more than possible that he would have eventually have become chairman of the club he loved so much.

Still successful

I do not doubt that had the tragedy never happened, Manchester United would still have achieved the position of being probably the most powerful football institution that they enjoy today. 

In 1958, the club had an exceptionally young team which had swept virtually all before them. There was so much strength in depth of young players coming through from the junior teams and they had made their mark in European football. 

Sir Matt Busby and Bill Foulkes

Sir Matt won the European Cup in 1968

It is more than likely that certainly at domestic level, they could have dominated for at least another 10 years and probably longer than that, such was the array of talent available to them. 

Sir Matt Busby would never have received the terrible injuries that he did, and would probably have held on to the managerial reins for much longer than he did.

Off the field, there was a set of directors that would have taken the club forward and would have served the club without the self and greedy interest that Louis Edwards had. There is no doubt that the club would have moved with the times and would not have been allowed to stagnate.

They would have always been at the forefront, pioneering, expanding. They would have achieved their present status and would always be just what they are – Manchester United!

last updated: 19/03/2008 at 15:22
created: 05/02/2008

You are in: Manchester > History > History features > Munich: what if?

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