In Memoriam: Sir Bobby Charlton (1937-2023)

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In Memoriam: Sir Bobby Charlton (1937-2023)
Trafford Old. by the Editorial Team21:05 on Saturday, October 21, 2023Share on Facebook and Twitter.
We regret to inform you of the demise of one of the all-time greats in Manchester United and English football history, Sir Bobby Charlton, who was 86 years old.

The news of Sir Bobby's departure will be felt not only in Greater Manchester but also throughout the United Kingdom and anywhere football is played worldwide. He was a hero to people of all ages.

It's safe to say that for many years, "Bobby Charlton" and "English" were among the most often used terms worldwide because of his success and notoriety outside of sports.

There was no one who represented Manchester United's principles more than Sir Bobby Charlton.

Sir Bobby served as the connector between Manchester United's history and present for many years.

At the age of 20, he managed to withstand the trauma of the Munich Air Disaster and overcome his injuries to become the best player for both his club and his country. He played 758 games and scored 249 goals over his 17-year playing career with the Reds. Until Ryan Giggs in 2008 and Wayne Rooney in 2017, respectively, eclipsed his achievements, both of which were long-standing records.

The young Charlton, the nephew of the legendary Jackie Milburn of Newcastle United, was highly sought after by clubs all across the nation. He joined Matt Busby's Manchester United as a schoolboy in 1953 and became a professional in October of the same year.

His first-team debut came on October 6, 1956, at Old Trafford against Charlton Athletic, after he had won the FA Youth Cup in 1954, 1955, and 1956. The young player had an instant impression. Despite having an injury, he scored twice in the Reds' 4-2 league victory. 

Sir Bobby recounted, "Mr. Busby asked me if I was okay." "I said, 'yes,' crossing my fingers, not willing to acknowledge that I had a sprained ankle."

Charlton's big break came through United's renowned Busby Babes squad in the middle of the 1950s.

Although he made a splash during his debut, Charlton didn't establish himself as a regular until the end of the 1956–57 campaign, when he scored 10 goals to help Busby's "Babies" win the league championship for the sixth time in the team's history. Intense competition existed for a first-team berth, but Busby found it increasingly difficult to leave out the potent young forward after he scored three goals against Bolton Wanderers in the following season.

In a 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade in February 1958, Charlton netted two goals to help United advance to the European Cup semi-finals. 

When the squad's plane crashed in Munich after refueling, disaster struck on their return. Charlton was one of the twenty-three injured, and eight of his teammates died in the incident. Nevertheless, his injuries were not too severe, and he returned to playing in less than a month, ultimately assisting the Reds in winning the FA Cup. At Wembley, United was defeated 2-0 by Bolton Wanderers; nevertheless, in 1963, Charlton and company came back and defeated Leicester City to win the same title.

Five years after Munich, Charlton and his teammates celebrate winning the 1963 FA Cup final.

The England international demonstrated his value as a key player in United's post-Munich rebuilding effort, specializing in different areas of the field as the other players were assembled. This included the addition of Denis Law and George Best, the trio of attackers who would later be dubbed the United Trinity. Charlton's best performance came after he was permanently switched to a deep-lying striker role; he was essential to Busby's team's league titles in 1965 and 1967.

Charlton won two major awards in rapid succession, Football Writers' Association Player of the Year and European Footballer of the Year, just before the 1966 World Cup. He went on to play a pivotal role in Alf Ramsey's team's victory over Portugal in the semi-final, scoring twice. With 106 caps overall (three as captain), Charlton scored 49 goals, which held the record for England until May 1970, until Wayne Rooney broke it in September 2015 with his 50th goal.

While many consider winning the World Cup to be the ultimate football accomplishment, Charlton's best performance at the club level occurred in May 1968 when he led United to European Cup victory at Wembley. He famously skipped the post-match festivities in favor of a solitary memory of the friends he had lost in the Munich disaster ten years earlier, despite scoring twice in the 4-1 final victory over Benfica.

Bobby gives manager Sir Matt Busby and head coach Jimmy Murphy hugs following United's 1968 European Cup victory.

Before retiring in 1973, the captain kept entertaining United supporters as a member of the renowned United Trinity. After that, he managed and served as player-manager for two years at Preston North End before leaving in August of 1975. In 1976, Bobby had a brief stint as an Irish player for Waterford. Later, he accepted a boardroom role at Wigan Athletic, where he became caretaker-manager for the 1982–1983 season.

Charlton joined Manchester United as a director in June 1984. He had received the OBE and CBE before being knighted ten years later.

As a revered leader who served as a bridge between the club's past, present, and future, Sir Bobby Charlton was a respected ambassador for his club, English football, and football in general. His humanitarian endeavors also played a significant role in his life. His Find A Better Way organization, which was later renamed The Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, was devoted to tackling the devastating effects of landmines in war-torn nations.

Sir Bobby remained involved in United life to the fullest and with great love even after retiring in 1973.

Along with his wife Lady Norma, he seldom missed a game at his beloved Old Trafford in his latter years, and he continued to have the same level of fandom as he had in the past when his extraordinarily strong and accurate shooting generated so many amazing and spectacular goals. A statement from Manchester United stated: "Everyone at Manchester United is saddened that this terrible disease has afflicted Sir Bobby Charlton and we continue to offer our love and support to Sir Bobby and his family." In November 2020, it was confirmed that Sir Bobby had been diagnosed with dementia.

The United Trinity statue that Sir Bobby shares with his iconic teammates Denis Law and George Best, as well as the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, the stadium's south stand that was renamed in his honor in April 2016, are two examples of how Sir Bobby's legacy lives on at Old Trafford.

The club sends its deepest sympathies to Lady Norma as well as to all the family members and friends of the Charltons during this very difficult period. There will always be a place for Sir Bobby Charlton in football history.