Sunday, April 22, 2012

George Best: Club career

Manchester United (1963–1974)

At the age of 15, Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop, whose telegram to United manager Matt Busby read: "I think I've found you a genius."[13][14] His local club Glentoran had previously rejected him for being "too small and light".[15] Best was subsequently given a trial and signed up by chief scout Joe Armstrong. His first time moving to the club, Best quickly became homesick and stayed for only two days before going back home to Northern Ireland.[16]
Best made his Manchester United debut, aged 17, on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1–0 victory. He was too young to contend for a first-team place for much of the first half of the season. His second appearance came on 28 December againstBurnley. This First Division match saw Best's first goal for United in a 5–1 win. Matt Busby used Best much more after the New Year and by the end of the season, Best had made 26 appearances, scoring six goals. Manchester United finished second, four points behind Liverpool.
In his second season, Best and Manchester United claimed the league title.
Best hit the headlines at the age of twenty when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966. The Portuguese media dubbed him "O Quinto Beatle", "the fifth Beatle" in English. His talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. Known for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, Best appeared onTop of the Pops in 1965.[17] Other nicknames included the "Belfast Boy" and he was often referred to as Georgie, or Geordie in his native Belfast.[18]
The 1966–67 season was again successful, as Manchester United claimed the league title by four points. The following season, Best became a European Cup winner after scoring in the final against Benfica. United won 4–1 and Best was later crowned European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year. After this, his steady decline began.
Best opened two nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s, Oscar's and the other called Slack Alice's (which later became 42nd Street Nightclub). He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. He developed problems with gamblingwomanising and alcoholism.
Best played at United when shirt numbers were assigned to positions, in the traditional English way, and not the player. When Best played at right wing, as he famously did during the later stages of the 1966 and 1968 European Cups, he donned the number 7. As a left winger, where he played exclusively in his debut season and nearly all of the 1971–72, he wore the number 11. Best wore the number 8 shirt at inside right on occasion throughout the 1960s, but for more than half of his matches during 1970–71. He was playing at inside left (wearing the number 10) in 1972 when he famously walked out on United the first time but was back in the number 11 for the autumn of 1973 before leaving for good. Best even wore the number 9 jersey once for United, with Bobby Charlton injured, on 22 March 1969 at Old Trafford, scoring the only goal in a 1–0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.[19]
In 1974, aged 27, Best quit United for good. His last competitive game for the club was on 1 January 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, which United lost 3-0.[20]
In total Best made 470 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 179 goals (including six in one game against fourth division Northampton Town — an extraordinary feat that in 2002 the British public voted #26 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments).[21]The last of his goals for United was in a 3-2 home league defeat to Coventry City on 15 December 1973.[22]He was the club's top scorer for six consecutive seasons, and was the First Division's top scorer in the 1967–68 season. Over the next decade he went into an increasingly rapid decline, drifting between several clubs, including spells in South Africa, Ireland, United States, Scotland, and Australia.

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