While much of the coverage surrounding yesterday’s Manchester derby — won by 10 man United, 1-0, on Wayne Rooney’s 42nd minute goal — concerns Cristiano Ronaldo’s sending off, the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor takes an entirely different tactic. Dismayed by continued taunting on the part of Manchester City hosts recalling the 1958 airline crash that killed 8 members of Matt Busby’s European Cup contenders, Taylor declares “Ronaldo isn’t the only one who needs to take a long hard look at himself.”
The game had not kicked off when the first City supporters in close vicinity to the away end could be seen doing pretend aeroplane gestures. OK, there were only half a dozen of them. But there were significantly more, 16 minutes into the game, who were calling Nemanja Vidic a “dirty Munich bastard” (after Micah Richards had actually sunk his studs into his opponent’s chest). And, again, five minutes later when we got a rendition of “same old Munichs, always cheating.” You get the idea.
Football is tribal. These occasions are no place for softies and there are many people, myself included, who remember the old days and wish the Premier League wasn’t such a plastic experience. But it is a pretty strange set of circumstances – and does this really need pointing out? – that leads anyone to mock a disaster that killed 23 people and devastated a great city (and beyond).
It embarrasses the club. It embarrasses many of their supporters. And it embarrasses all those proud old players who grew up as mates of the eight members of Matt Busby’s team who died.
Maybe the perpetrators don’t realise how it sounds to someone like Sir Bobby Charlton in the directors’ box. Or maybe they do, and that’s the point. But let’s not forget that one of their own also died on that snowy runway in Bavaria on February 6, 1958 – City’s former goalkeeper, Frank Swift, who was on the plane in his new role as a football reporter.