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Manchester United and England great Sir Bobby Charlton has died aged 86, his family have announced in a statement.
Charlton was a key member of England’s victorious 1966 World Cup team and also enjoyed great success at club level with United, who became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.
A statement on behalf of the Charlton family said: “It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was surrounded by his family.”
The statement added: “His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him.
“We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.”
Charlton’s European Cup success at United came 10 years after the Munich air disaster, which he and team manager Sir Matt Busby survived but which claimed the lives of eight of Charlton’s team-mates.
Born in Ashington on October 11 1937, Charlton played in the World Cup final alongside his brother Jack, who died aged 85 in 2020, and won 106 caps for England, scoring 49 goals.
He made his debut for United in 1956 and went on to play 758 matches for the Red Devils, scoring 249 goals. Both were long-standing club records until they were overtaken by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney respectively.
Charlton won three league three titles and one FA Cup at Old Trafford and, after leaving United in 1973 and becoming Preston manager, he returned to Old Trafford 11 years later as a club director. He was knighted for services to football in 1994.
“Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club,” the Premier League club said in a statement.
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.
Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club
“He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.
“A graduate of our youth academy, Sir Bobby played 758 games and scored 249 goals during 17 years as a Manchester United player, winning the European Cup, three league titles and the FA Cup. For England, he won 106 caps and scored 49 goals for England, and won the 1966 World Cup.
“Following his retirement, he went on to serve the club with distinction as a director for 39 years. His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will be forever etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.
“The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.”
United manager Erik ten Hag paid his own tribute in an interview before their Premier League game at Sheffield United on Saturday night.
Ten Hag said: “Our thoughts are, of course, with the family. With of course his wife, our thoughts are there. It’s for them, but also for the whole football world.
“But not only the football world, the whole world is losing a big personality. A legend, a giant. He was it on the pitch, but definitely also off the pitch.”
Charlton was diagnosed with dementia and the announcement of his condition made public in November 2020.
The announcement came two days after his United and England team-mate Nobby Stiles died following his own battle with the illness.
The Telegraph said that Charlton’s wife, Lady Norma, was happy for his condition to be reported.
Paying tribute to Charlton, the Premier League said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “The Premier League is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest players in English football history.
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go to Sir Bobby’s family and friends, and to all at Manchester United.”
Charlton made his England debut against Scotland at Hampden Park in April 1958, just over two months after he had survived the Munich air disaster.
He was not selected for England’s 1958 World Cup squad that summer, but played at the tournament in 1962, 1966 and 1970.
Charlton scored three times at the 1966 World Cup, including both goals in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Portugal, and ended his England career at the age of 32 following the quarter-final exit to West Germany in 1970.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton,” the official England account tweeted.
“An integral part of our 1966 FIFA World Cup winning campaign, Sir Bobby won 106 caps and scored 49 times for the #ThreeLions.
“A true legend of our game. We will never forget you, Sir Bobby.”
Prince William, president of the Football Association, paid tribute to Charlton on social media.
Writing on the official account of The Prince and Princess of Wales, William said: “Sir Bobby Charlton. First Division Champion. European Champion. World Champion. Gentleman. Legend. A true great who will be remembered forever. Thank you Sir Bobby. W.”
England manager Gareth Southgate added: “One of our most iconic players, Sir Bobby Charlton’s impact on our only World Cup triumph is there for all to see.
“The privilege of meeting him on several occasions allowed me to understand his personal pride and emotion in having represented England and simply confirmed in my mind his standing as one of the gentlemen of the game.
“The world of football will unite in its sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”
England will pay a full tribute to Charlton at the European Championship qualifier against Malta at Wembley on November 17.
Wayne Rooney broke Charlton’s scoring records for both Manchester United and England and heard the news during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Birmingham at the Riverside.
Birmingham boss Rooney said: “As I came out for the second half, I didn’t know what was happening. I see his image on the big screen and it hit me what had happened.
“Bobby was always great with me, we had many conversations about football and life. He is a huge inspiration not just to me but to a lot of players who have played for Manchester United.
“He was the first to congratulate me when I broke the record at Stoke. He came in after the game with his wife. He said congratulations – and a few more harsh words, jokingly. He was a top human being which is more important.”
Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick, another former United player, said: “One particular memory that stands out was the 50-year anniversary of Munich. He came into the training ground and spoke to us about the tragedy and what it meant to him. That’s 45 minutes that I will never, ever forget.”
Charlton’s death means Sir Geoff Hurst is the only survivor from England’s 1966 World Cup final win over West Germany.
Hurst, who hit a hat-trick in the 4-2 Wembley victory, said: “Very sad news today 1 of the true Greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away. We will never forget him & nor will all of football.
“A great colleague & friend he will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone. Condolences to his family & friends from Geoff and Judith.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Charlton’s impact on football “spanned generations”, saying on social media: “On behalf of FIFA, and the global football family, I send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sir Bobby Charlton.
“We mourn the loss of one of England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup winning team and a football legend, whose impact on the game spanned generations.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was close to him, his former teammates, The Football Association and Manchester United. Rest In Peace.”
In its own tribute, UEFA added: “On behalf of the entire European football community, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the game’s true greats. Rest in peace, Sir Bobby.”
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Our thoughts are with Sir Bobby Charlton’s family, and all those who loved him, following the tragic news that he has died with dementia.
“It’s absolutely devastating that Sir Bobby’s final years were blighted by dementia, but unfortunately this is the case for almost one million people in the UK today.
“At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we are determined to change the ending for everyone affected by dementia by finding a cure and the awful news about Sir Bobby highlights that we don’t have a moment to waste.”
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