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Manchester United celebrate Busby Babes

Written by: Staff

MANCHESTER, England, Mar 22 (Reuters) Manchester United plan to honour the Busby Babes with a 50th anniversary celebration year and a commitment to developing local youngsters, chief executive David Gill said on Wednesday.

United will launch the celebration at their home game against Arsenal next month, which falls almost 50 years to the day since the young team fashioned by Matt Busby won the 1955/56 Championship.

Manager Busby promoted a clutch of young players into his first team, which won back-to-back league titles and reached two semi-finals of the European Cup before eight players were killed in the 1958 Munich air crash.

The team the club's current manager Alex Ferguson built to dominate the 1990s also included a core of homegrown young players in David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.

''Through this (celebration) we can say what Manchester United has been built upon is not just the last 10 or 15 years of success,'' Gill said.

''It truly did start in the 1950s and since then the whole ethos and pioneering spirit that Matt Busby established and created has always been at the forefront of our minds.'' Among the Busby Babes and Munich survivors was Bobby Charlton, who went on to set a record for the number of league appearances for United and score a club record number of goals with 247.

Charlton, now a club director, said: ''In the 50 years since that great young side won the league we have become the most famous and best-loved club around. I'm proud to have played a part in that.'' ''Sir Matt Busby put in his young players of 17 and 18 and that was unheard of. It was the start of something that became the norm in terms of football clubs.'' Central to the year's events, which will include commemorative dinners and a special match in May 2007, will be the creation of a Manchester United Foundation to help fund and promote charitable activities and football development.

Gill, who was speaking at United's youth academy, said the club was fortunate to be able to buy top talent.

''But we would not want to go just down that route,'' he said.

''We firmly believe that to develop your own talent is something very worthwhile and probably more rewarding.

''We love to win trophies. If we had to win trophies without local players then so be it but I don't think that would ever be the Manchester United way.'' REUTERS PG KN2254

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