On this day in 1963: George Best makes his Manchester United first-team debut against West Bromwich Albion at the age of 17. David Sadler scores the winning goal at Old Trafford in a season which sees United finish runners-up to Liverpool.
Moreover, George Best ends up with four goals in the campaign as Denis Law and David Herd are United’s top goal-scorers with 50 league goals between them.
Georgie the Belfast boy went on to make 470 appearances in the famous Red of Manchester United, scoring 179 goals along the way. The argument of who is the most naturally gifted footballer of all time is one that crops up on a regular basis. Many come to mind for me, Pelé, Maradona, Bobby Charlton. Nowadays, it is Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who are out to outdo eachother at every opportunity in an attempt to be recognized as the greatest football on the planet. Ultimately, who you choose when asked the question evokes a subjective – and very often biased – opinion. Having said that, George Best is not out of place amongst these names and is worthy of inclusion in any list when that topic is debated.
Having grown up in Belfast, United was spotted by Utd scouts and turned professional in 1963; scoring in his second outing for the club. Dubbed ‘the fifth Beatle’, Best – alongside Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton – played a vital role as Manchester United won the league in 1965, their first title success since 1957.
Further, he was a key cog in the machine again in 1967 as he won his second championship with United.
Arguably, his finest season in the Red of United came in 1968 as he scored 28 goals in all competitions and was voted PFA and European footballer of the year. Crucially, he scored the second goal in the European Cup final against Benfica to give Utd the lead in extra time. The rest, as we all know, is history.
In the aftermath of the Busby era, Best struggled with a number of personal issues and he couldn’t recapture his true form in an ageing Manchester United team. That said, his status as a club legend is not up for debate.
I will leave you with one of my favourite George Best quotes: ”In 1969, I gave up women and alcohol. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.”
One of a kind.