Thousands line Manchester streets to bid final farewell to Bobby Charlton

Thousands of people took to the streets of Manchester on Monday to pay their last respects to Manchester United and England legend Bobby Charlton, with Alex Ferguson and Prince William among the mourners.

Alex Ferguson, left, former Manchester United manager and former United CEO David Gill arrive at the funeral of English football icon Bobby Charlton (AP)

The 1966 World Cup winner, widely regarded as one of England’s greatest players, died on October 21 at the age of 86 after a fall in his care home.

Crowds cheered and waved flags as the funeral cortege drove past United’s Old Trafford ground on its way to a private funeral service at Manchester Cathedral to celebrate Charlton’s life.

The hearse managed to immortalize the famous “Trinity United” statue Charlton, Denis Law and George Best as members of the club’s under-18 and under-21 squads as a guard of honour.

High on the glass wall of the East Stand were two huge black and white photographs, one of Charlton in his playing days and the other of him as an elder statesman, alongside the words “Sir Bobby Charlton, 1937-2023.

Around 1,000 guests including former United manager Ferguson, England boss Gareth Southgate and Prince William, president of the Football Association, attended the service, as well as current and former players.

Former United captain Bryan Robson, speaking before the service, told the BBC: “To be a player who has won the World Cup, won the Champions League and had such a long and successful career you have to be in your great player to be able to. achieve that.

“But Sir Bob wasn’t just a great player, he was a great person and he had time for everyone.”

Former teammate Alex Stepney said Charlton remained humble despite his success.

“It was all about winning and that’s what Bobby Charlton was all about,” he said. “Sir, a big family man. He never lost his head.”

– ‘Legend’ and ‘icon’ –

Former United chief executive David Gill paid tribute during the service, describing Charlton as “a legend, an icon and a very devoted and loyal colleague and friend”.

“Football is a tribal sport but Bobby loved it,” he said.

The funeral ended with a jingle of bells as Charlton’s coffin, covered in white flowers, was carried by pallbearers.

Ferguson, who was instrumental in his appointment as manager at Old Trafford, described Charlton as a “tower of strength” during his trophy-laden 26-year managerial career.

“It was a fantastic event. The speakers were fantastic, especially his grandson,” he told the BBC. “It was great. It’s not easy to go up and talk.

“Bobby Charlton was great, a humble man and I was at Manchester United because of Bobby Charlton.”

Former England captain Gary Lineker said the service was “emotional and meaningful”, describing Charlton as “more than a footballer in many ways”.

“It was synonymous with the word ‘football’,” he said. “You could go anywhere in the world, even places where they didn’t speak English and they would tell you one thing and that was ‘Bobby Charlton’ and that shows his fame but it also shows the respect and love he has. around the world.”

Charlton was a key member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team, along with his late brother Jack. He won 106 caps for England, scoring 49 goals.

He also enjoyed great success at club level with United, who became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968, ten years after surviving an air crash in Munich, which killed eight of his teammates.

He played 758 games and scored 249 goals for United between 1956 and 1973. Both were club records for a long time until they were broken by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.

Charlton, who won the Ballon d’Or in 1966, returned to the club he made his name as manager in 1984 and remained a major figure at Old Trafford for years to come.

In 2020, it was announced that he had been diagnosed with dementia and as the disease progressed he did not stop attending matches.

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