Hackett was left mesmerized by Real and Di Stefano in particular, writing how "we were left without words to use for that odd man out among the continentals, Alfredo Di Stefano from the Argentine."
What had started as a trickle of optimism had been left submerged by the unstoppable tidal wave of Real's attacking prowess.
Breaking the stranglehold
While Real would go on to win the nascent competition for the second year in a row, defeating Fiorentina of Italy in the final, United finished the season as English league champions before losing to Aston Villa in the FA Cup final in front of nearly 100,000 at Wembley.
Real went on to win the first five editions of the competition, but United's fortunes were left ruined among the wreckage of the 1958 Munich Air Disaster.
Of the 11 players which lined up against Real, six perished in the accident on February 6 when the plane carrying players, staff, journalists and supporters crashed in a blizzard while trying to take off at the third attempt from Munich airport.
Byrne, Eddie Colman, Edwards, Pegg, Taylor and Liam Whelan all lost their lives alongside fellow teammates Mark Jones and Geoff Bent.
In all, 23 of the 44 passengers lost their lives, while several players and manager Busby suffered physical and mental trauma.
It would be 10 years until United met Real again, with just two players in Charlton and Bill Foulkes, both Munich survivors, remaining from the team which had lost out in the previous meeting.
On that occasion, inspired by the mercurial talent of George Best, United triumphed, winning 1-0 at home before securing a 3-3 draw in Madrid.
Busby's team would go on to lift the trophy at Wembley after defeating Eusebio's Benfica 4-1, just 10 years after the nightmare of Munich.
Whether United would have challenged Real's dominance of European football during the 1950s remains a hypothetical question.
Real signed one of the greatest players to have ever stepped onto a football field in the shape of Hungary's Ferenc Puskas in 1958 and saw off all comers until a Bela Guttmann-inspired Benfica broke the stranglehold in 1961.
"Would the Madrid team have remained so dominant in Europe had Munich not happened? I don't think that they would," said Clare.
"I think that United were on course to win the European Cup in 1958. They were such a young vibrant team, who had gained their first season of experience in Europe and had learned a lot from it.
"There was also much more strength in depth at Old Trafford than there was in Madrid.
"People forget that in season 1958-59, just months after the tragedy, United's patched-up young team finished runners-up in Division One to champions Wolves -- that was some achievement."