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Thousands of fans welcome Charlton funeral cortege at Old Trafford

Manchester: Manchester United great BobbyCharltonwas remembered both as oneofEnglish football’s finest players and a “humble” and “fantastic” man by thethousandsoffansand someofthe sport’s biggest names who bid him a final farewell on Monday.

Charlton, a World Cup winner with England and oneofUnited’s best ever players, died on Oct. 21atthe ageof86.

Former United manager Alex Ferguson, former players Andy Cole and Paul Scholes, England manager Gareth Southgate, Prince William and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin were among the some-1,000 invited guests who attended the private serviceatManchester Cathedral.

“I knew straight away what a great guy he was… Even on international duty it was about winning. A humble guy, a great family man. It never went to his head,”Charlton’s former team mate Alex Stepney told the BBC.

A throngofthousandsoffansa dozen deep in places braved the blustery weather to applaud asCharltonmade one final trip pastOldTrafford.

Hisfuneralcortegepaused in frontofthe Trinity StatueofCharlton, George Best and Denis Law. The trio helped United become the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.

A carefully laid collectionofhundredsofbouquets and scarves around the statue’s base continues to grow.

Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw were among the current United players to attend the service, with many absent due to international duties. Manager Erik ten Hag was not able to attend due to a commitment in the Netherlands.

The England team’s arrivalattheir training baseatSt. George’s Park was delayed on Monday to allow Southgate, Maguire and others to attend.

“Arguably we are talking about the greatest English footballer we have ever had,” former United captain Steve Bruce told Sky Sports. “Thenofcourse, he had class as a man too. So when you have the mixtureofthe two you can understand why there are going to bethousandsofpeople lining the streets.

“One simple thing he always said (when I joined United), ‘It’s a great club. Just enjoy it, enjoy the privilegeofplaying for this great football club.'”

Another former United captain Bryan Robson called it a “sad day for football, for Man United and Sir Bobby’s family”.

“He was a fantastic player, but not just that, he was a great person,” Robson told Sky News.

The ceremony was expected to include tributes and eulogies from former United chief executive David Gill and former Manchester United Foundation chief executive John Shiels, plus a personal tribute fromCharlton’s family.

Hymns were to include Abide With Me, which is traditionally sung before the FA Cup final.

Charltonwas a key figure in England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team, playing alongside his brother Jack. He made 758 appearances for United, scoring 249 goals, winning three league titles, the FA Cup and European Cup.

(Published 13 November 2023, 15:07 IST)

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