An informal photo taken in a drab, wood-paneled dressing room in Manchester in September 1975 captures an extraordinary moment in football history.
It shows a group of players completely at ease, humble almost, before turning out for a testimonial match at Manchester City’s home ground Maine Road.
But these are no ordinary players. These are the Manchester United heroes who won the European Cup by beating Benfica 4-1 at Wembley on a balmy night in May 1968.
Eight years and later and the team is reunited in their familiar red shirts. Well, almost reunited. David Sadler, John Aston and Brian Kidd from the 1968 line-up were missing.
Their places in the photo were taken by United winger Willie Morgan, former City skipper Tony Book (in a very unfamiliar kit for him) and winger Leighton James, guesting from Burnley.
In the corner, gritty midfielder Nobby Stiles has a grin on his face while others look a little more serious. Goalkeeper Alex Stepney sits cross-legged on the floor while Pat Crerand rests his hands on his shoulders.
A heavily bearded George Best appears pensive while Bobby Charlton manages a wry smile. It is a wonderful snapshot in time.
The occasion was the testimonial match of Manchester City winger Mike Summerbee – a great friend of Best and a supreme servant to the Blues from 1965 to 1975.
He was leading out an All-Star City XI including goalkeeper Joe Corrigan and former Blues’ forward Francis Lee.
Lining up for United, from left to right in our picture, are Stiles, Tommy Dunne, Bill Foulkes, Best, Shay Brennan, Crerand with Stepney below, Willie Morgan, James, Charlton and Book.
The match itself, played in front of a crowd of 20,309 at Maine Road on September 2nd 1975, was a see-saw affair resulting in a 4-3 win for the United XI.
A report of the game said age may have dulled the reflexes of United team, but certainly not the ‘mannerisms and method of play’.
Stiles made a spirited tackle to give away the first free kick of the showpiece match in the 37th minute and Charlton was spraying passes around the park.
Northern Ireland international winger Best was the player of the night. He set up the first goal after 10 minutes when he came through a sliding tackle to pass to Morgan.
The speedy Scotland forward hit City ‘keeper Joe Corrigan with his first shot but found the back of the net with the rebound.
United’s second came in the 17th minute when Charlton sent a long diagonal pass to midfielder Crerand who scored with a left-foot drive into the far corner from 22 yards out.
City levelled the score at 2-2 with goals from Dennis Leman and Francis Lee, back for the night from his new club Derby County, before Charlton made it 3-2 to the visitors.
Penalty king Lee made it 3-3 from the spot after Foulkes had handled in the box in 82nd minute, but the last word belonged to Best.
He beat no less than four men in the penalty area to snatch the winner in the final minute.
It was perhaps fitting that Best played such a memorable role as he and Summerbee were great pals. The two holidayed together and opened a boutique as joint partners in Manchester.
Best was the also the best man at Summerbee’s wedding to Tina Schofield at St Michael’s Church, Mottram, in September 1968.
Born in Preston in December 1942, Summerbee grew up in Cheltenham and played for Swindon Town from the age of 16. He joined Manchester City in 1965 for a transfer fee of £35,000.
The right-winger was a major factor in City winning four trophies from 1968 to 1970 – the First Division title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
In all, he made 357 league appearances for the Blues, scoring 47 goals, before moving to Burnley in June 1975 for a transfer fee of £25,000.
Summerbee then joined Blackpool in December 1976, but only made three league appearances before becoming Stockport County’s player-manager in the 1978-9 season. He played 87 league matches for Stockport, scoring six goals.
During his playing career, Summerbee was capped eight times for England, scoring one goal in the European Championship qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley in November 1971. The result was a 1-1 draw.
Summerbee was known as a practical joker at City with the nickname ‘Buzzer’. He also starred in the 1981 football film Escape to Victory alongside Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Bobby Moore and Pele.
*Clive Hardy’s latest book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45, published by iNostalgia Ltd, is now on the sale at the special price of £14.99 including UK postage and packing.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order your book or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.