The Championship in 1955 had entitled United to play in a new competition named the European Cup. The competition had been dreamed up by the French Newspaper 'L'Equipe'. Chelsea had been invited the previous year but at the prompting of the Football League they had turned the chance down. United also heard serious argument from the football powers, but Manager Matt Busby stood defiant, even risking sanctions to accept the offer and to pave the way into Europe for the English. Busby as always was on the cutting edge of the game, he believed his young side were a match for the best in Europe, and was determined to prove his point. The Football league eventually backed down to him and United were in Europe!
At this time Old Trafford did not have floodlights, and it was our friends from across the City who once again came to our rescue. all United's home games in the European cup were to played at Maine road, the home of Manchester City. In the first tie they were drawn against Belgian Champions Anderlecht, who they disposed of 10-0. The next game they were drawn against the German team Borussia Dortmund, who they also disposed of to go on to meet the Spanish Champions Bilbao. Playing in Spain in the first leg the team slumped to its first defeat in the competition losing 5-2, on the return over 70,000 fans packed into Maine Road to watch them make a stunning comeback and defeat Bilbao 3-0 on goals from Taylor and Violett (2). By this time the accolades were pouring in, Jeff Mermans the Anderlecht captain called them 'Worldbeaters', and the Daily Herald's George Follows described the Bilbao game as "the greatest football match he had ever seen, the greatest football crowd he had ever heard, and the greatest centre forward display he had ever seen."
Everyone agreed, it had been Tommy Taylors Night! The team had also been on a big bonus to win the tie, a whopping 3 pounds! United were through to the semi-final, and the Mighty Real Madrid. The Spanish team boasted World class stars like Alfredo Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Puskas, Gento and the Russian keeper Yashin. On the first leg the youth of the United team showed and Madrid tore them apart before 125,000 Fans in Bernabeau Stadium 3-1. The Old Trafford floodlights had been installed in time for the second leg and the game was played before 65,000, but it was not to be United's day and they settled for a 2-2 draw and elimination from the competition. Interestingly United's late equaliser came from a young forward named Bobby Charlton.
In addition to the good European Cup run, things had being going well on the domestic front with United through to Wembley to face Aston Villa, having already clinched the League Championship by finishing 8 points ahead of Spurs. The team were odds on favourites to clinch the Double with a win against Villa, but with just six minutes gone Villa's flying winger Peter McParland recklessly charged United keeper Ray Wood, who had possession of the ball and was preparing to kick upfield. It was a particularity nasty foul, and it has been debated many times over the years why the ref allowed McParland to remain on the field.
Woods' cheekbone had been shattered, and the United team were down to 10 men, (No subs allowed) so Jackie Blanchfower donned the goalie shirt for the rest of the second half which finished 0-0. Woods made a brave effort to return to the goal in the second half, but the weakened United team succumbed to two goals from McParland and their dream of League and Cup double had been extinguished. The building of a team that was christened the `Busby Babes' around 1956 was complete, but actually started in the youth teams of 1952 and on. The United youth team won the FA youth cup from the years 1952 through to 1957.