This day in football history
On 4 April 1953, Duncan Edwards made his debut for Manchester United, starting a career cut short by his death in Munich five years later.
A half-back, Edwards joined the United youth team in 1952 and was a star in the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1953. Prior to the final, however, manager Matt Busby gave him his first-team debut in a home league match against Cardiff City. He was only 16 years and 185 days old at the time, making him the youngest player to appear in England’s top flight up to that point.
United lost that match 4–1, but Edwards blossomed into a rare talent, with many observers counting on a great future for him. Teammate Bobby Charlton, winner of the 1966 Ballon d’Or, later said that Edwards was the only player that made him feel inferior. He quickly became a feature in the United senior side, making 24 league appearances in 1953–54, then featuring in almost all of their games after that.
Tragically, his career was cut short when United’s team plane, bringing them home from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade, crashed in Munich on 6 February 1958. Seven players died instantly, while Edwards and manager Matt Busby were rushed to the hospital with critical injuries. Busby eventually recovered, but Edwards died just over two weeks later on 21 February at the age of 21.