United legend Best dies, aged 59

November 25, 2005

Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend George Best died today aged 59.

A spokesman for the Cromwell Hospital in west London confirmed: 'After a long and very valiant fight Mr George Best died this afternoon in the intensive care unit at Cromwell Hospital.

'The thoughts of all staff at Cromwell Hospital are with Mr Best's family at this time.'

Born in Belfast, Best played for United from 1963 to 1974 and his finest hour came in 1968 when the Red Devils became the first English club to win the European Cup.

Best made 180 goals in 474 appearances for United and also won two league championships, in 1965 and 1967.

A statement from United read: 'George Best was one of the greatest footballers of all time.

'Naturally athletic, tough, confident and blessed with genius, his career was one of the brightest stars of its generation. His gifts were legendary.

'For the goals, the audacious dribbles and all the wonderful memories, Manchester United and its legions of fans worldwide will always be grateful.

'We feel a deep sense of loss but his spirit and his talent will live on forever.'

Sir Bobby Charlton, a director at Old Trafford and a team-mate of Best's during his time at the club, said: 'Manchester United's glorious history has been created by people like George Best.

'Anyone that witnessed what George could do on the pitch wished they could do the same. He made an immense contribution to the game, and enriched the lives of everyone that saw him play. It is a very sad day.

'Football has lost one of its greats, and I have lost a dear friend. He was a marvellous person and my thoughts are now with his family.'

The club will open a book of condolence tomorrow morning at Old Trafford.

The Irish Football Association led the mourning in Best's native Northern Ireland, for whom he made 37 appearances and scored nine goals.

IFA chief executive Howard Wells said: 'This is a sad day for football. George was a complete one-off with a natural talent rarely seen since.

'I had the privilege of entertaining him when I worked in Hong Kong and I also saw one of his early internationals for Northern Ireland, in 1964. He had this incredible balance, speed and grace. He was the best I had ever seen.'

IFA director of coaching Roy Millar added: 'He was an icon of Northern Ireland football and he will be remembered for his performances for Northern Ireland and Manchester United. He was the most talented footballer Northern Ireland has ever produced and he was a world star.'

Best died at 12.55pm, a hospital spokesman said. He had suffered multiple organ failure.

He spent his final hours in hospital surrounded by his loved ones.

His family, including son Calum, 24, and father Dickie, 87, had kept an all-night vigil at his bedside.

This morning floral tributes started to arrive outside the private hospital. Alongside the flowers were several United supporters' scarves and a football shirt bearing the name Best and the number seven.

Best was admitted to Cromwell Hospital on October 1 suffering from a flu-like infection.

His health deteriorated rapidly when he developed a kidney infection, but he then rallied and his condition was thought to be improving until the early hours of Friday last week when he suffered a severe setback.

He developed a lung infection and was put back on a ventilator in intensive care, but remained alert.

His condition deteriorated further on Wednesday night after which his consultant, Professor Roger Williams, said there was no longer anything doctors could do.