It was six years ago today that British newsreaders finally reported the news that reds all over the world were bracing themselves for, but didn’t want to hear.
After being ill in hospital for eight weeks, United and footballing legend George Best had passed away aged 59 from multiple organ failure. Despite it being expected for a number of days, the dreaded news filled United supporters with sadness, and whether you ever saw the great man play or not you couldn’t help but try and fight back the emotion. November 25th 2006 saw part of Manchester United die.
Back in the 60s, a young George Best not only lit up Old Trafford, but also lit up the City too – becoming the first football-pop-star with his man about town image, good looks and populatiry amongst the girls.
But that all came about because of what George Best could do on a football pitch. “I think I’ve found a genius” said scout Bob Bishop in his telegram to Matt Busby in 1961 after discovering the 15 year old in Belfast. ‘Genius’ was the perfect description of George Best, and you could also put the words ‘magician’ and ‘legend’ next to his name too.
After making his debut for the reds in 1963 as a sprightly 17 year old, he fast became a hero to United fans, who took to his flair, skill and wizardry with jaw dropping awe.
He was a key part of the trinity alongside Denis Law and Bobby Charlton that helped Manchester United win the First Division title in 1965 and 1967. He also had an integral part to play in the European Cup win of 1968, not just by scoring in the final but having an amazing season leading up to the showpiece at Wembley. His role in the team’s success was recognised by his becoming the European Footballer of the Year in 1968.
The Northern Irishman was often called the best player ever. A certain Pele also told the world the same thing, and George Best didn’t disagree. If Pele said that, it was always good enough for George.
For the reds, Best made 466 appearances, scoring a total of 178 goals. Six of those goals came in an FA Cup tie against Northampton Town in an 8-2 victory, setting a record for the most goals in an FA Cup game at the time.
He left United in 1974, his last game for the club coming against Queens Park Rangers on 1st January. He then had spells with Cork City, Fulham, Hibs, and Bournemouth – with a few American teams thrown in there too: Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and later San Jose Earthquakes.
But it was his time at United that people remember. George Best summed up what Manchester United was. What Manchester United is. Under Matt Busby, he played his football the United way, and he is one person that the word ‘legend’ is not wasted upon.
Watch this video. The tributes will bring a tear to your eye, and the football will bring a smile to your face. The world is worse off without George Best in it.
Rest in peace George. May 22nd 1946 – November 25th 2005.
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