Sir Alex: Let’s be inspired by Sir Bobby’s example

Sir Alex: Let’s be inspired by Sir Bobby’s example

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Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to the late, great Sir Bobby Charlton in a heartfelt column which will feature inside Sunday’s Manchester derby edition of United Review.

Our official matchday programme for the Premier League game against Manchester City at Old Trafford celebrates Sir Bobby’s extraordinary life and legacy, and includes the full eulogy for arguably United’s greatest-ever player from our legendary former manager.

You can read a moving extract from it below, in which Sir Alex goes back to 1958 to recall the first time he came across the magic of a man who he would later go on to form an exceptional bond with, after arriving in Manchester two shy of 30 years later.

“I first set eyes on Bobby Charlton when he made his debut for England against Scotland at Hampden Park in April 1958, just two months after surviving the Munich Air Disaster,” Sir Alex begins.

“I was there as a Scotland fan, stood on the terraces by the corner flag, and I remember Tom Finney playing as an outside-left against Alex Parker, who was a very good full-back. On one occasion, Finney got the better of Parker, took the ball to the byline and cut it back across the box for Bobby, who hammered it into the roof of the net from 16 yards out.

“In those days you didn’t have players jumping on top of each other when they scored, and Bobby just jogged back to the halfway line with a couple of slaps on the back from his team-mates.

“But the Scottish keeper sprinted out of his goal 40 yards to congratulate him, not just because it was a great goal, but also because of what Bobby had been through. Everyone in the stadium that day could see there was a bit of magic about him, but also some steel. 

“The personal connection between us began almost three decades later, when I was manager of Aberdeen, and Bobby was a director of Manchester United when they were looking for a new manager,” Ferguson continues.

“The directors came to meet me in Glasgow and asked what my vision was for the job. I said I would take the same approach I had at Aberdeen, by looking to build up the whole club, not just the team, and that I would do that by developing young players. 

“As I was explaining this, I saw Bobby nudge one of the other directors and he said, “that’s what we want”. He’d made his mind up. From that moment on he was a tower of strength for me.

“It’s no surprise to me that we’ve seen tributes to Sir Bobby from everywhere in the world, on every TV channel and in every newspaper, because he was without question the greatest English player of all time.

“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.”

Sir Alex: “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.”

The deeply saddening news of Sir Bobby’s passing last Saturday came just over two weeks after the United family sent its wholehearted condolences to Sir Alex, following the passing of his beloved wife, Lady Cathy.

Within his tribute, after expressing his deepest regret for Sir Bobby’s wife Lady Norma, Ferguson takes the opportunity to thank everyone concerned with the club for the outpouring of love and well wishes he and his own family gratefully received earlier this month.

“I am so sorry for Lady Norma, who was always by Bobby’s side, especially as his health declined, and my thoughts have been with the whole family these past few days,” Sir Alex says.

“Unfortunately, I have also suffered the painful loss of my beloved wife, Cathy, this month, and I want to thank the club, the fans, and everyone who has sent me their condolences. The black armbands worn by the team against Brentford, and the flags at half-mast around Old Trafford were a wonderful tribute. Cathy supported me every step of the way through my career, and she was the backbone of our family. 

“At such a sad time, there is tremendous comfort to be found in being part of the Manchester United community and we’ve all felt that spirit this week. We’re continuing to mourn for Bobby’s loss, but as we look forward to the derby this afternoon, let’s also celebrate the many wonderful memories he has blessed us with and be inspired by the example he set.”

Main image photo credit: Sean Pollock.

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