BOBBY CHARLTON was 20-years-old and was just breaking into the team at the time of the crash, he had scored twice in Belgrade the night before.

He went on to become one of the game's greatest players and remains one of its most respected ambassadors.

Sir Bobby said: "I obviously understand why people want to talk to me about it because I was part of it and I survived it and I'm still here. I have no problem with that and talking about the team and the players that were killed because they were so good and I was so proud of them and to be playing with them.

"You've got to remember the situation at the time when the whole of world football was on an outward journey to find these fantastic places to play. It was unheard of that we were going to places like Germany, Italy, Hungary and Yugoslavia to play football that seemed miles and miles away and took a long time to get to.

"In those days it was hard work and it wasn't easy to play, if you twisted your knee and it happened to be a cartilage it was 50/50 whether you played again. Everything about the facilities and preparation today is better - which makes me feel even prouder of the players back then.

"The first game they played in Europe was when Duncan Edwards and I were doing our national service at Nesscliffe, near Shrewsbury. We were doing that two years and I wasn't in the first team and I never got off for midweek matches.

"So I stayed at the camp and I would see Duncan Edwards going off to play these mid week games. But this company sergeant major said if I could get some tickets he would drive us to the match as long as we got back that night.

"I can remember going watching the first match in Europe and wishing I could play. Man United beat Anderlecht of Belgium 10-0. Initially you were thinking are we good enough? Will they be streets ahead of us?' Well it was the opposite apart from Real Madrid at that particular time really we could play against anyone.

"Everybody wanted to come to Old Trafford because the atmosphere the fans made was electric and of course the second year in the competition, when we were on the way back from Red Star Belgrade, the accident happened.

"You had all these young players - some like Duncan Edwards, Roger Bryne, David Pegg and Tommy Taylor also playing for England - and what an adventure and then suddenly it's taken away from them like that. So it gives you some picture of what it was like and the whole tragedy of the thing.

"But if you ask me talk about England it's second really to United simply because at this particular time Manchester United was the biggest and best team and it was just an unbelievable tragedy.

"I think if the accident hadn't happened we would have won the European Cup that year. Real Madrid won the first five but we weren't ever going backwards - we would have beaten them.

He added: "The Eurpoean Cup in 1968 was marvellous because it was something you could aim at to put things right after this great tragedy and loss. We had two or three gos when we didn't perform at all in Europe - but I think everybody expected that Matt Busby's team would win it.

"The decisive moment was when we came from being 3-1 down in Madrid, when we equalised and qualified for the final at Wembley. We literally won it there. The Wembley final was a big thankyou and I think Matt Busby could feel a lot happier because he probably missed the players more than anyone else.

"I think he felt responsible. He spoke to the lads parents and brought them to play at his family club. He was the father figure and when the tragedy happened it affected him more than anybody else."