Man Utd’s Sir Bobby Charlton send-off was as dignified and respectful as the icon himself | Football | Sport

Man Utd’s Sir Bobby Charlton send-off was as dignified and respectful as the icon himself | Football | Sport

It has been all too easy over the course of the last 10 years to point fingers at Manchester United as it has careered chaotically from one questionable decision to the next. Whether it has been over transfers, a veering strategy in search of a worthy successor to Sir Alex Ferguson or the internecine battles and protests over unloved owners it has been messy and for much of that time badly handled.

Yet watching the club bid a final farewell to one of its favourite sons yesterday it was hard not to think that over the death of Sir Bobby Charlton this storied and huge club have not put a foot out of place. From start to finish it has been beautifully handled, never mawkish or overblown, always sensitive and measured. And today’s send off from Old Trafford was as dignified and respectful as the great man himself.

The biting Manchester wind which whipped across open expanses behind the East Stand had done its best to dissuade fans to venture out. But of course they came. And in their thousands, too. On the Trinity statue, Charlton’s right arm rested gently as always on Denis Law’s left shoulder but somebody had tied a simple woollen black, red and white United scarf around his neck.

Behind those three immortalised greats there were black and white pictures celebrating Charlton’s life with the club from teenager to legend, player to director. One one he was a smiling academy player scrubbing away with a stiff brush at the mud on his own shirt in digs.

On another he was winning the World Cup. Then he was standing with Eusebio, a few yards on smiling with unknown children. And he was winning the European Cup against Benfica in 1968 and then celebrating another with Ferguson and his 1999 team.

When the funeral cortege made its slow progress across the forecourt behind the East Stand, there was respectful applause. One fan broke through the barrier to toss a red United shirt on to the bonnet. When the hearse reached his statue, flanked fittingly by a guard of honour comprising the U21 and U18 squads, it paused.

It was a poignant moment given his lifelong love affair with a club that has prided itself unearthing the next generation to wear the United shirt. After a moment the cars slowly pulled away to leave for the service at Manchester Cathedral where the great and the good of football and beyond gathered to celebrate his life.

It will, no doubt, have been a suitably grand occasion for all that this modest man might have balked at the fuss. In its own understated way Old Trafford’s tribute, from those wrapped up tight against the biting cold who just came to say goodbye, was just as meaningful, just as foot perfect and every bit as grand.

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