Manchester United are arguably the biggest club in the history of football and over the years have produced some of the greatest players to grace the game.
There have been many great players who have ensured the Red Devils have become a household name around the world. But the greatest of them all can only go to one man. Belfast, May 22nd, 1946, a true legend was born…….and that, was George Best.
Football lost one of its greatest characters when Best passed away in November 2005. His game combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goal scoring and the ability to beat defenders at will. In 1968, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year.
In 1999, he was voted 11th at the IFFHS European Player of the Century election, and 16th in the World Player of the Century election. Pelé named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list and Best was named 19th, behind Gerd Müller, at the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.
In his native Northern Ireland, the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying: "Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best."
He made his debut for United at the age of 17 and immediately bewitched the opposition and beguiled fans in equal measure.
A first trophy - the league title - came two years later in 1965, and within a year Best had been dubbed the ‘Fifth Beatle’.
The nickname was given him by the Portuguese press after he had almost single-handedly dismantled an experienced Benfica side in the European Cup. Although United missed out on any silverware that season, another domestic title came in 1967.
He was at the peak of his powers and United reached their pinnacle the following season.
Having come back from 3-1 down to beat Real Madrid in the last four of the European Cup, United faced Benfica again.
On home soil at Wembley the match seemed to be drifting away from Busby's team, with the Portuguese growing in stature as the match went into extra time.
But then Best stepped up with a moment of magic to break the deadlock and set his side en-route to a famous 4-1 victory that helped him win the European Footballer of the Year.
That is why, to this very day, ‘Bestie’ is still regarded by many as the most naturally talented player to have ever stepped on to a football pitch.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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