Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Alex Ferguson: Belfast boy George Best was gentle lad gripped by shyness

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson attended Best's funeral in 2005 when it was estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of Belfast
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson attended Best's funeral in 2005 when it was estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of Belfast

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has described the late George Best as "a very gentle lad gripped by shyness", adding that the Belfast man's funeral in 2005 had the feel of a state occasion.

Ferguson's revealing comments about the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland hero are made in his much talked about autobiography which is in shops now.

The ex-United boss was a huge fan of Best the player, but admitted he was worried by the insecurity George showed away from the pitch.

Ferguson wrote: "In November 2005, we lost George Best. He was a very nice bloke, George, a very gentle lad, a bit nervous somehow. Nervous to talk to you.

"He had an insecurity about him that worried you.

"I remember sitting in a bar in Japan with him once – he was with his girlfriend – and he could hardly talk. He seemed gripped by shyness."

Ferguson attended Best's funeral in 2005 when it was estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of Belfast to pay their respects.

The funeral service took place at Stormont before Best (59) was buried beside his mother Ann at Roselawn Cemetery.

He recalled looking at George's dad Dickie, who has since died.

"The funeral was huge and sad and wonderfully orchestrated by the city of Belfast. It had the feel and grandeur of a state funeral," wrote the Scot. "I remember looking at George's father, a wee, humble man and thinking: 'He produced one of the greatest players of all-time'. A small man from Belfast, a quiet man. You could see where George got his reticence."

In Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography, published by Hodder and Stoughton, Ferguson talks about the fascination the public had for maverick characters and players like Best, who he said was more intelligent than many gave him credit for.

"The football public is basically working class, and for some reason they like people who are flawed. Best. (Paul) Gascoigne, Jimmy Johnstone. They see reflections of themselves in these imperfect heroes. They understand the frailty," said the former United boss, who is now a club director.

"George could have had a good life after football. He could have coached young players, but perhaps lacked the personality to be a tutor. A fact about George that few recognised is how intelligent he was."

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