On October 16th 1968, Estudiantes of Argentina won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Manchester United in a bitterly fought two-legged final.
Manchester United were the reigning European Cup holders having overcome Benfica at Wembley to become the first English side to lift ‘the cup with the big ears’.By winning the previous season’s Copa Libertadores, Estudiantes earned the right to face them to decide which was the finest side in club football.
They met for the first leg on September 25th in the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, home of Boca Juniors, as Estudiantes’ ground was deemed unsuitable. The hosts eked out a narrow 1-0 victory in a match that saw United midfielder Nobby Stiles sent off and winger Bobby Charlton receive a blow to the head that required stitches.
Despite that result, United were favorites going into the second leg at Old Trafford three weeks later. A crowd of 63,500 were on hand to cheer on the reds, many waiting for as much as five hours in the heavy rain to purchase their tickets which ranged from 10 shillings to as much as £3 in price. The match generated over £50,000 in gate receipts which was a record for the time.
Despite the partizan crowd United fell behind early when Estudiantes forward Juan Ramón Verón headed a free-kick past Alex Stepney after just seven minutes. There was more bad news for United when striker Denis Law received an injury and had to come off in the 43rd minute, replaced by the Italian Carlo Sartori.
In similar scenes to the previous years match between Celtic and Racing, tempers flared in the second half as both teams had a player dismissed – George Best for United and José Medina for Estudiantes- in the 88th minute after a scuffle. Allegedly Best punched Medina in the face and pushed Néstor Togneri to the ground in the build up to the fracas. After the referee produced red cards for Best and Medina, Best is accused of spitting at Medina, resulting in the two having to be escorted to their respective changing rooms.
Almost straight after Willie Morgan drew the home team level on the night in the 89th minute, but they could not find another goal and Estudiantes held on to win on aggregate.
After the final whistle the Estudiantes team attempted to run a lap of honour, but the home fans hurled objects onto the pitch, cutting the lap of honour short!
Probably the most violent member of the Estudiantes side was their midfielder Carlos Bilardo, whose conduct caused Sir Matt Busby to later comment that “holding the ball out there put you in danger of your life”.
In our Great Shot (above) José Hugo Medina of Estudiantes is escorted off the pitch clutching his face in dramatic fashion after being sent-off along with United’s George Best in that second leg (Photograph: PPP).