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Monday, 13 November 2023 21:30

Thousands mourn Sir Bobby Charlton at Old Trafford funeral cortege.

Staff Reporter.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Manchester on Monday to pay their final respects to Manchester United and England great Bobby Charlton, who died last month at the age of 86.

The 1966 World Cup winner, widely regarded as one of England's greatest players, died after an accidental fall at his care home on October 21.

Crowds clapped warmly and held banners as the funeral cortege drove past United's Old Trafford ground on its way to a private funeral service at Manchester Cathedral to celebrate Charlton's life.

The hearse passed the famous "United Trinity" statue immortalising Charlton, Denis Law and George Best and members of the club's Under-18 and Under-21 squads formed a guard of honour.

There were numerous black-and-white photographs depicting Charlton's long and illustrious career as a player and then as a director at the club.

Around 1,000 guests including former United manager Alex Ferguson, England boss Gareth Southgate and Prince William, the Football Association president, arrived for the private funeral service, which started at 1400 GMT, along with current and former players.

Former United captain Bryan Robson, speaking before the service, told the BBC: "For a player to win the World Cup, win the Champions League and have such a long and successful career you've got to be a fantastic player to be able to achieve that.

"But Sir Bob wasn't just a great player, he was a great person and had time for everybody."

Former teammate Alex Stepney said Charlton remained humble despite his success.

"It was all about playing for Manchester United," he said. "Even on international duty it was about winning and that was what Bobby Charlton was all about. A humble guy, a great family man. It never went to his head."

The service, which included a eulogy from former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, ended with the chiming of bells as Charlton's coffin was carried out, covered in white flowers.

Former England captain Gary Lineker said the service was "emotive and meaningful", describing Charlton as "more than just a footballer in many ways".

"He was synonymous with the word 'football'," he said. "You could go anywhere in the world, even places where they didn't speak English and they'd say one thing to you and that was 'Bobby Charlton' and that shows his fame but it also shows how much respect and love he has around the world."

World Cup Winner

Charlton was a key member of England's victorious 1966 World Cup team, alongside his late brother Jack. He won 106 caps for England, scoring 49 goals.

He also enjoyed great success at club level with United, who became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968, a decade after he survived an air crash in Munich, in which eight of his teammates were killed.

Charlton returned to the club with which he had made his name as a director in 1984 and remained a major figure there until his later years.

In 2020, it was announced he had been diagnosed with dementia and as the disease took hold he stopped attending matches at Old Trafford.

Ferguson, who guided the club back to the pinnacle of European football, described the former midfielder as a "tower of strength" during his 26-year spell as manager.

In a eulogy published in the matchday programme ahead of the derby against Manchester City, Ferguson wrote: "People loved him because of all those thunderbolt goals, but it was more than that. My dad used to say that humility in success is a sign of greatness, and that was Bobby.

"He never used to boast about his own achievements -- it was always about the team and the club."

Meanwhile Manchester United could be without Rasmus Hojlund for a critical Champions League trip to Galatasaray, while Christian Eriksen will be sidelined for a month in the latest injury blow to the Red Devils.

© Agence France-Presse.