Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the most cherished figures in the history of British football, breathed his last on Saturday at the age of 86.
Charlton’s illustrious career included being a pivotal part of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team, a feat he achieved while sharing the pitch with his brother, Jack. Over the years, he donned the Manchester United jersey with pride, amassing 758 appearances and netting an impressive 249 goals.
“Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club,” expressed the Premier League club in a heartfelt statement.
Aged 20, Charlton endured the heart-wrenching tragedy of the 1958 Munich air crash that decimated the “Busby Babes” team, claiming the lives of 23 individuals, including eight of United’s players.
His prowess on the field shone brightly during the 1966 World Cup, where he notched two critical goals in England’s semi-final victory over Portugal, ultimately instrumental in their 4-2 conquest of West Germany in the final, a match marked by Geoff Hurst’s memorable hat-trick.
Hurst, now the sole survivor of Alf Ramsey’s World Cup-winning side, paid homage to his former teammate, saying, “Very sad news today. One of the true Greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away. We will never forget him and nor will all of football. A great colleague and friend, he will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone.”
Charlton’s influence extended beyond international success. He played a pivotal role in Manchester United’s European Cup victory in 1968 and secured three English league titles and the FA Cup.
Former Manchester United and England midfielder David Beckham shared his sentiments, “Today is not just a sad day for Manchester United & England; it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented.”
Known for his powerful shots and a playing style that transcended generations, Charlton earned 106 caps for England and scored an impressive 49 goals.
Even after retiring, Charlton continued to serve as an ambassador for Manchester United and English football, earning global respect and admiration.
In 2020, Charlton’s appearances at Old Trafford became less frequent due to a diagnosis of dementia. His legacy will forever live on at Manchester United, where a stand at Old Trafford is named in his honor.
Charlton’s remarkable journey included a triumphant return from the trauma of the Munich air crash. A decade later, he played a key role in United’s victory over Benfica at Wembley, securing their first-ever European Cup.
Alongside his extraordinary teammates George Best and Denis Law, Charlton played a significant role in making Manchester United one of the most popular clubs in the world.
Manchester United, paying tribute to Charlton, stated, “He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.”
David Beckham, who began his glittering Manchester United career after attending a Bobby Charlton Soccer School as a young boy, remembered him as a “true gentleman, family man, and truly a national hero.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola acknowledged Charlton’s legendary status, recognising the impact he had not just on his family but also on the Manchester United and English football communities, emphasizing his role in shaping the Premier League.
The football world mourned as United players paid their respects, donning black armbands and observing a minute’s silence before their match against Sheffield United, which they won 2-1.
A book of condolence will be available for fans at Old Trafford on Sunday, and United manager Erik Ten Hag offered a heartfelt tribute to Charlton, describing him as a “big personality, a legend, a giant,” who set the standard as a Manchester United player.
The Football Association declared a comprehensive tribute to Charlton at Wembley Stadium when England faces Malta on November 17, highlighting the united sadness felt across the world of football at the loss of an indisputable legend, as acknowledged by England manager Gareth Southgate.