Sir Bobby Charlton, the Man United legend, dies at 86
Bobby Charlton, an English soccer icon who survived a plane crash that decimated a Manchester United team destined for greatness to become the heartbeat of his country’s 1966 World Cup triumph, has died. He was 86.
The death of Charlton, who is regarded by many as the greatest ever English player, was announced in a statement from his family that was released by United, which said he died Saturday surrounded by his family.
No cause of death was disclosed. In November 2020, it was announced that Charlton had been diagnosed with dementia, the same disease that afflicted his brother Jack — who died in 2020 at age 85 — and another World Cup winner, Nobby Stiles.
An extravagantly gifted attacking midfielder with a ferocious shot, Charlton was the leading scorer for both United (249 goals) and England (49 goals) for more than 40 years until being overtaken by Wayne Rooney.
Charlton was easily recognizable with his comb-over, and known globally for being a gentleman of the beautiful game.
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world,” United said.
“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.”
Alex Ferguson, who managed United from 1986-2013, said before Charlton’s death that he “is the greatest Manchester United player of all time — and that’s saying something.”
“Bobby Charlton is absolutely without peer in the history of the English game,” Ferguson said.
Charlton was also renowned for his humility and discipline. He was never sent off in 758 appearances for United from 1956-73 or 106 internationals for England from 1958-70.
Charlton played with George Best and Denis Law in the so-called “Trinity” that led United to the 1968 European Cup title after surviving the 1958 Munich crash that wiped out the celebrated “Busby Babes” team. He won three English league titles at United, and one FA Cup.
“For a footballer, he offered an unparalleled combination of grace, power and precision,” said former United defender Bill Foulkes, another survivor of the Munich air crash.
“It added up to a greatness and something more — something I can only call beauty.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino described Charlton as a “football legend whose impact on the game spanned generations.”
United great David Beckham said Charlton was “truly a national hero.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called him ”one of the game’s greatest players.”
BENSON KIWANUKA / RWANDA SUN