Sir Bobby Charlton’s farewell sees thousands pay their respects at Old Trafford

One last visit to Old Trafford, one last applause at the stadium where he brought so much joy.

This was a sombre occasion but a fitting farewell to Sir Bobby Charlton at the home of his beloved Manchester United. The hearse carrying Charlton on his final journey passed by the ground as thousands of supporters braved the blustery conditions to say goodbye to their hero.

They were young and old, from local and afar. Just like the crowds who used to gather here when he was wearing the red shirt. This may be the last time he will draw a crowd to the grand old ground but millions will continue to come here for many years because of him.

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Charlton was a cornerstone of everything that is great about United. As one banner outside of Old Trafford yesterday put it, ‘History, Dignity and Integrity”.

But also success. Charlton helped make this club into one of the world’s biggest and most successful with his three league titles, FA Cup and European Cup during his 17-year stay as a player.

It was here that Charlton played with the Busby Babes in the 1950s before the tragedy of Munich. Flowers lay in front of the tribute to the air disaster yesterday as Charlton joined his friends who perished on that runway 65 years ago.

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The boy from the North East was one of the lucky ones who could return to Old Trafford but he lived with the pain every day. Everything he did was in their honour, and there wasn’t much he didn’t do in the game. So many times he had this stadium roaring with his thunderous shot.

Some of those who would have rode the wave of people on the Stretford End when the player was in his pomp, stood still on Monday with their heads bowed waiting to say their own personal goodbye. The rain threatened to fall but there was only the odd tear coming down when the funeral cortege arrived at 1.30pm.

The solemn applause carried through the crowd as the hearse, flanked by members of United’s current youth sides, made its way towards the forecourt as a fan threw a shirt which landed on the bonnet.

The procession stopped briefly in front of the Holy Trinity statue, made up of Charlton, Denis Law and George Best, which stands opposite the sculpture of Sir Matt Busby on the East Stand.

They remain four huge figures in the history of this football club but the outpouring of love yesterday for Charlton reaffirmed his status as an icon of the game.

The World Cup winner for England will be fondly remembered everywhere but it was here at Old Trafford that he will be missed most.

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Charlton signed as a 15-year-old and returned after his playing days to remain a central figure in the boardroom as the club grew into a behemoth on a global scale. He continued his career at the club until the battle with dementia became too much.

Yet as the old terraces he once wowed in front of turned into the massive modern structures his coffin passed to symbolise United’s growth, Charlton remained the unassuming and modest man he always was.

As the banner read, “History, Dignity and Integrity.” That is Charlton’s legacy.

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