13 February 2013
A Real Madrid and Manchester United match up always results in an open playoff with plenty of goals. In fact, if we analyze the four clashes between the teams to date in Europe’s maximum competition, both squads guarantee an average 3.87 goals per game. An outrageous amount. Gento, Pachín, Amancio and Pirri lived some of those goals, particularly “La Galerna del Cantábrico”, who played in the first two clashes: “We’ve always had a good relationship with Manchester and I’m sure that we’ll see two great matches. Also, when we were on the squad we played many friendly matches against them. We traveled to England a lot and they came here”. Two of the matches had special meaning: “We’ll never forget the two games that were played in honor of the Munich air disaster, which happened 55 years ago. It was very emotional”, remembers Gento and Pachín.
Fate has brought Real Madrid and Manchester United together again in a Champions League knockout round. The two sides have faced off officially in precisely this competition and the numbers are in favor of the Whites (3-1). Gento, Pachín, Amancio and Pirri came up against the English side in the only knockout round that felled Real. Amancio remembers it this way: “It happened in 1968. I was on Stiles and he gave me a whale of a kick without the ball and I almost got injured. Julio Iglesias, who had come to see us at our hotel in Navacerrada, had warned about how tough this player was. He was friends with Velázquez, Grosso and De Felipe, who he had played with at Real’s youth academy. I was in the room with them and he sang La Vida Sigue Igual for us three or four times. Three months later he showed up in Benidorn and won with that song. Life went on from that point (la vida sigue igual) and we were eliminated”.
Gento, the only player of the four who eliminated Manchester, gave a warning about the current squad: “You can never give an English side up for dead. I remember that we eliminated them in 56/57 when we faced an English squad for the first time in an official competition. But eleven years later there were the ones that eliminated us, also in the semifinals. We lost 1-0 there, but here we have the match under control because we won 3-1. They scored the equalizer in the 80th minute and we were out”. Pachín and Pirri, defensive players, stressed the tough job they had in 1968 against two players from the British team and spoke about the fans that the Whites found when they came home: “George Best and Bobby Charlton were different players, very good. English football also has a very different style from ours and it’s a nice place to play. We’ll have to adapt”.
From the match played in honor of the Munich air disaster to Zárraga
The friendly matches between Real Madrid and Manchester have given a number of stories. Gento, Amancio, Pirri and Pachín lived many of those stores and their memories speak for themselves about the special relationship between both teams over the course of the years. The first time the teams faced off for a non-official match was in October 1959. Gento explains the reason: “We wanted to play a benefit match for the air disaster that happened to Manchester the year before against Munich, where 20 people between players, coaches and airline staff were killed. It was emotional. We won 1-6 and I scored the last goal, although the result wasn’t important”.
The English side visited the Spanish capital a month later and for the same reason. “It was a great match. We won 6-5 and I remember that Manolín Bueno took to the pitch and scored four goals. They knew he was a back-up and wanted to sign him that same day and take him back with them to England”, remembers Pachín.
From that point on these friendly matches became a tradition over the next three years. The squads played three (1960, 1961 and 1962) and all were refereed by French refs. The first two were held at Old Trafford and ended with 2-3 and 3-1 on the scoreboard. The latter, in honor of Zárraga, who racked up five European Cups, six league titles, one Intercontinental Cup and one Copa with the club, was won by the English side (0-2). "It's the least he deserved. He was on the pitch for ten minutes and he was touched to see that Rivilla and Mendonça, Atlético Madrid players, played with us, "says Amancio.
100-year anniversary friendly matches
Sixteen years passed before Real Madrid and Manchester United faced each other again for a non-official match. This time the English side celebrated its 100-year anniversary and that Whites, who had won the La Liga, couldn’t miss out. “The game had a special feeling. It was really amazing. We were right in the middle of the pre-season because the match was in August 1978 and they were more complete. You could tell. In the first half they scored three goals and there was no thrill on the pitch anymore”, describes Pirri.
The last friendly match between the two was in 2000 in celebration of another anniversary. This time in was Bayern Munich’s turn to celebrate and invited the Whites and the Red Devils to the Munich Olympic Stadium. A last-gasp goal by Scholes sentenced the match (1-0).
The last act of the tremendous warmth between Real Madrid and Manchester United was seen last June. The teams of veterans faced off in the Santiago Bernabéu, packed to celebrate the third annual charity Corazón Classic Match. The locals picked up the win (3-2).