George Best: 1946-2005
Tributes are being paid across Manchester to George Best. Friends and former teammates from his United playing days have been remembering one of the greatest players of all time.
Genius: George Best
George Best made his United debut in 1963 at the age of 17 against West Brom before going on to make 466 club appearances scoring 178 goals.
In a glittering career for the Reds, he won league title medals in 1965 & 1967 and scored in United's sensational 4-1 win over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final.
Arguably the most naturally gifted player of his generation, the Belfast boy will go down in history for his unique talent of bewitching defenders with his sublime control.
Best was also a pop icon. His flamboyant lifestyle and relationships was frequently splashed on the tabloid front pages while his on-the field-exploits dominated the back pages.
Tributes from Manchester
Here are some of those tributes paid by friends and teammates from his playing days in Manchester.
Sir Matt Busby, former United manager
"In all my experience in football, I have never seen a player who could beat a man - or men - so close or in so many ways."
Sir Bobby Charlton, former team-mate and United director
"Manchester United's glorious history has been created by people like George Best. Anyone that witnessed what George could do on the pitch wished they could do the same. He made an immense contribution to the game, and enriched the lives of everyone that saw him play. It is a very sad day. Football has lost one of its greats, and I have lost a dear friend."
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager
"He was such a special player, a phenomenal player and I think I speak for everyone associated with Manchester United when I say he has left us with a million memories, all of them good ones. Some people are just born with a craft and leave an indelible mark on people's lives. The thing I remember, apart from his talent, was his courage. I can see him flying down the wing riding tackles from people like Ron Harris, Tommy Smith and Norman Hunter. They were serious guys - you didn't mess with them. Every time he went down he got up again and just said 'Give me the ball.' That will stick in my mind forever."
Tommy Docherty, former United manager
"He would have been even better if he'd been able to pass nightclubs the way he passed a ball."
Denis Law, former United team-mate
"From 1964 to 1969, he was the best player in the country. It's sad as hell, but I don't think we saw the best of him. I think he went on the blink at a time when he could have got even better. You hit your peak as a player around 28 and he was gone by then. Even so, I'd put him on a par with the top six I ever saw. I wouldn't like to choose between George, Di Stefano, Cruyff, Maradona, Pele and big John Charles. Bestie definitely belongs among that elite."
Alex Stepney, former United team-mate
"George was the greatest player I played with and that's saying something when you have three European Footballers of the Year in your team." And off the pitch? "He was a gentleman. He was a single lad, enjoyed his life but when he was with any of the lads and the families he was a pleasure to be with. We know what he's gone through, the life he's led but every player that he ever played with will be very sad.. very, very sad."
Hugh McIlvanney, sports journalist
"His game was an amalgam of superb, almost unnatural balance; unbreakable spirit; and a delicacy of touch that stayed true no matter how fast how he moved. He carried onto the field a constant threat that was incredible."
Harry Goodwin, photographer
[Harry struck up a friendship with a young George Best when he was living in digs in Chorlton-cum-Hardy]. "Everything was great about George, he was perfect. He was a great person and what a lot of people don't realise is that he was a very nice man and a very kind man."
Harry Gregg, former United and N. Ireland team-mate
"I'm proud to say I knew him not just as a footballer and a team-mate but as a person and a friend. We know all the stories. We know about the night in Lisbon when he was told to take it easy and scored twice in the first 10 minutes. We know about him leaving Manchester United at 26 and we know about the stories that have come since - but I would defy anyone who really knew George to say a bad word about him. The only person he hurt was himself. It is a sad, sad day but at least he is at rest now and that is a blessing in itself."
Sammy McIlroy, former United player
"George Best was the most complete player the world has ever seen. He could tackle, he could head, he could shoot, he had pace he scored goals, made goals. He was the most complete footballer ever.
"He did an unbelievable thing for me. When I made my debut against Manchester City I didn't know I was playing until 11am that morning. And once he knew I was playing he came over to me and said, 'go on, enjoy yourself, if you score today I'll bring you a bottle of champagne in on Monday'. I kept that bottle of champagne for about eight or nine years."
Mark Longden, Independent Man Utd Supporters Association (IMUSA)
"Quite simply football is all about opinions, but there is only one fact. George Best was the greatest football player ever. You can keep your Cruyffs, Peles and Maradonas. He was the best ever."
Sean Bones, Shareholders United
"George was a beautiful and striking genius. He was the most naturally gifted football player the world has ever seen. George had everything and we were blessed and privileged to have him at Old Trafford. He was poetry in motion, sold gold. He was our Georgie Best."
Annie Coates, former girlfriend on his sex appeal
"George had to go on to stage to make a speech. That was the first time it struck me that the audience just seemed to be all teenage girls. I couldn’t believe it. They just screamed and screamed as if he was one of the Beatles or something."
Selwyn Demmy, Manchester bookmaker
"You imagine an 18 or 19-year-old kid just suddenly becoming the hero of the world because football was as big then as it is now and it just all happened. All the adulation, I repeat the word adulation, came from the girls."
last updated: 06/02/2008 at 10:40