Home » , , , , » Throwback Thursdays: George Best Sends Manchester United into Dreamland

Throwback Thursdays: George Best Sends Manchester United into Dreamland

"I think I've found you a genius."
Those were the words contained within a simple telegram sent by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop in 1961 to manager Matt Busby regarding a 15 year old kid from Belfast by the name of George Best.

Best, who passed away ten years ago this week, made his debut for United on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at age 17, and almost immediately his unique talent became apparent.

In a rough and tumble era of English football in the 1960's, Best was an artist who used a dazzling array of feints, tricks, creativity and raw pace to get around opponents much bigger than himself.

Despite his slender size though he wasn't lacking in toughness either, thanks in part to the bruising training sessions Busby had his sides go through and the hard edge he had picked up when playing football as a kid back home in Northern Ireland.

When watching clips of Best nowadays, besides his incredible dribbling and speed, it's his ability to ride bruising challenges that would almost certainly be deemed to be serious fouls in modern football that really stands out. He could withstand attempts by opponents to cut him down to size and just keep going, which is really in essence what made him so fantastic.

Best's finest moment for United, and indeed his career, came on 29 May 1968 at Wembley Stadium as his side took on Benfica in the final of the European Cup.

Ten years before that night at Wembley, an early foray into European competition had seen Matt Busby's supremely talented side "The Busby Babes" torn apart after their plane had crashed on the runway in Munich following a match in Yugoslavia against Red Star Belgrade. Eight players had lost their lives in that disaster and the cup had taken on a new meaning for the club and it's supporters as a result.

There was a real feeling around the club that they wanted to win the cup for the players lost in Munich. In their way though stood a terrific Benfica side who had already won the trophy twice in the 1960's.

Following a scoreless first half against the Portuguese giants, Bobby Charlton opened the scoring for United early in the second half with a rare headed goal.

With only eleven minutes to go though, Jaime Graça equalized for Benfica and it was only a terrific save from Alex Stepney on the legendary Eusebio minutes later that kept United in the match.

As extra time kicked off it was Best's moment to shine. Only two minutes into extra time, a long punt downfield from Stepney was picked up by Best about 25 yards from goal.

The first of United's famous number sevens, proceeded to burst into the box, dribble around José Henrique in the Benfica goal and slot in his side's second.

It was the moment that his career had been building towards and a dagger to the heart of the Portuguese side who would soon concede two further goals to Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton to put the match outside of reach.

With United climbing Wembley's famous 39 steps to collect the European Cup, Matt Busby's dream had been realized and he had much to thank Best for.

Although he would leave United at age 26, and later drift between clubs in America, Ireland, Scotland, and again in England without ever settling anywhere for long, it was this moment and that goal against Benfica that defined him.

When thinking of Best, it's easy to get caught up in stories of his problems with alcohol, the sense that he didn't accomplish all that he could and then his sad premature demise, but beyond all of that it's better to remember him as a wonderful footballer who brought joy to countless fans, capped by that night at Wembley when he helped United become the first English club to win the European Cup.


Post a Comment