Sir Bobby Charlton, the legendary Manchester United and England midfielder, has died at the age of 86.
Charlton was part of the United side that won the European Cup in 1968. He scored in the final 4-1 win at Wembley against Benfica and secured England’s first victory in the competition.
Two years earlier, the dangerous midfielder had been a mainstay in England’s World Cup win on home soil. With three goals in the tournament – including the winning brace in the semi-final against Portugal – he played a key role in the success.
Charlton finished his national team career in 1970 as the record goalscorer with 49 goals in 106 matches.
In total, he was active with Manchester United’s professional team for 17 years and completed 758 matches, scoring 249 goals, winning three Championship titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup. The 1968 victory was particularly significant for Charlton because ten years earlier, when he was 20, he had survived the Munich air disaster in which eight players and 15 other passengers died.
United said in an official statement: “Manchester United mourns the loss of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most popular players in the history of our club.”
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester or the UK, but around the world. He was admired for his sportsmanship and integrity as well as his outstanding qualities as a footballer. Sir Bobby will always be remembered as one of football’s greatest players. It remains a memory.”
Charlton made his last appearance for United in 1973, at the same time that his brother and fellow World Cup winner Jack finished his career at Leeds United. He then spent time as a player-coach at Preston North End, for whom he made 38 appearances. He has been part of United’s management team since 1984.
The United statement continued: “His unparalleled achievements, character and achievements will forever be part of the history of Manchester United and English football, and his legacy will live on through the work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.”
Among many to pay tribute to the England legend, England manager Gareth Southgate said: “Sir Bobby Charlton is one of the greatest English players of all time. With his World Cup win, he has made himself immortal.”
“I have had the privilege of meeting him in person on several occasions and was able to understand his personal pride and feelings about representing England. His views have reinforced my belief that he is one of the masters of the game.”
There will be tributes to Sir Bobby Charlton at Wembley when England play Malta in a European qualifier on Friday 17 November.
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