Echoes of best as United and Benfica face each other
London: Manchester United's Champions League encounter with Benfica on Wednesday represents a resumption of hostilities with foes who have provided a yardstick for their European standing for over half a century.
Benfica, famously, were the team United defeated at Wembley in 1968 to become the first English side to win the European Cup.
Two years ago, it was with a bravura performance at Benfica's Estadio da Luz that a 19-year-old George Best catapulted himself to international renown.
But Benfica have also engineered some of United's continental low moments, most notably in 2005, when the Lisbon giants condemned Alex Ferguson's team to a humbling group- stage exit.
The teams first met in early 1966 when United were embarking upon their first European Cup campaign since Matt Busby's 'Busby Babes' were decimated by the 1958 Munich air disaster.
After United won the first leg of their quarter-final 3-2 at Old Trafford, the teams faced off again in Lisbon and Benfica were torn apart, an early Best brace setting Busby's side on their way to a thumping 5-1 win. Best's second goal, in the 13th minute, was one of his finest in a United shirt as he gathered a knock-down and surged past two defenders before drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner.
"A hurricane passed through the Luz that night and his name was George Best," said Benfica winger Antonio Simoes.
"On nights like that, good players become great players and great players become gods," Best recalled.