Former Manchester United and England star Bobby Charlton, whose death at the age of 86 was announced on Saturday, will go down in history as the gentlemanly embodiment of English football’s golden era. A survivor of the Munich air disaster in 1958, which claimed the lives of eight of his United team-mates, Charlton recovered to win the World Cup with England in 1966 and the European Cup with United two years later.
Renowned as a player for both his venomous shooting and sense of fair play, he became a United director in later life and came to be seen as a standard-bearer for a bygone era of chivalry and sportsmanship.
Only in later years, as dementia took hold, did Charlton stop attending matches at Old Trafford.
“There has never been a more popular footballer,” said United’s late former manager Matt Busby, who, like Charlton, survived the Munich crash to lead the club to the summit of the European game.
“He was as near perfection as man and player as it is possible to be.”
An elegant, authoritative inside-forward, Charlton could strike the ball equally well with either foot and scored with the regularity of a striker, often rippling the net from well outside the box.
“He was a beautiful player and a lovely striker of the ball -30-yarders into the roof of the net,” recalled his United team-mate Denis Law.