Belfast Telegraph

Old Trafford bejewelled as fans light up their phones in tribute to the genius of George Best

By Lesley Houston

Thousands of Manchester United fans have joined together in an emotional tribute to one of the club's favourite sons - George Best - on the 10th anniversary of his death.

In a collective act of remembrance to the east Belfast star, who died on November 25, 2005, vast swathes of the 70,000 crowd at Old Trafford last night held aloft illuminated mobile phones.

Ribbons of light were created throughout the stands in the seventh minute - a tribute to the No 7 shirt made famous by the superstar footballer.

A Swiss horn was sounded as a new banner with the words "Georgie... Simply the Best" was unfurled during United's Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven.

Despite the occasion, United's chances of making the last 16 hang in the balance after a frustrating goalless draw.

The new banner, created by supporters' group Stretford End Flags, was draped along the J stand at the match. It replaces another tribute which was created for the first home match after Best's death against West Bromwich Albion in November 2005. Best wore the No 7 shirt when he played at United for 11 years between 1963 and 1974. The so-called Belfast Boy played a total of 474 matches for the side, scoring 181 times and winning two league championships and the European Cup in 1968.

Dubbed by his contemporary, the legendary Brazilian Pele, as the greatest footballer in the world, Best was instrumental in helping Manchester United win the First Division in 1964/5, the first time they had won it since the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. He was the youngest player to be crowned European Footballer of the Year.

Best's ability to mesmerise both the opposition and the crowds at Old Trafford secured his place alongside other greats such as much-loved players Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. The trio were immortalised in a 'Holy Trinity' sculpture at the stadium. Affectionately dubbed the fifth Beatle or 'El Beatle', the pinnacle of career was his 32-goal season of 1968.

While the back pages heralded his amazing skill on the turf, he captured news headlines with his off-field activities as his battle with alcoholism began to emerge.

One of the first superstars of the game, Best's time at United marked the dawn of the celebrity footballer, but his personal struggles led to an early departure at the age of 27. He then turned his mercurial talent to clubs from Fulham in London to the US where he starred with the San Jose Earthquakes. Best relapsed into alcoholism after a liver transplant in 2002, but before he died, he said that he wished simply to be remembered for his football.

Belfast Telegraph


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