Denis Law hailed Sir Bobby Charlton as “one of the best players ever” as the England and Manchester United great turned 80 today.
A man rightly revered by club and country, a World Cup winner, European champion and all-round gentleman, he has a brief – if unsuccessful – stint as Preston North End manager and player/manager.
Charlton scored 49 goals in 106 appearances for his country and, most pertinently, spearheaded them to World Cup glory on home soil in 1966.
It was the peak of a career in which he served with distinction for 17 years at United, with his all-time appearance and scoring records only falling to Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney in recent years.
His achievements have been recognised in a variety of ways. He was knighted in 1994, the South Stand at Old Trafford was renamed in his honour and a statue of Charlton alongside Red Devils team-mates Law and George Best is situated just outside the stadium.
The trio scored 665 goals between them for United and Law loved playing with Charlton as much as he loved the man himself.
“What a fantastic player, what a fantastic guy,” the former Scotland striker said.
“He deserves everything he has been awarded with. He is one of the best players ever.
“We’ve always had connections along the way. You never forget people like Sir Bobby. It’s just that he’s done so much for his country, done so much for United. He’s probably one of the best known around the world.
“Don’t forget, the television wasn’t about in those days like it is today so the fact that he is known all around the world just shows how great a player and person he is.”
Law especially admires how Charlton stood strong after surviving the 1958 Munich disaster in which eight of his United team-mates perished.
“The Munich disaster rebounded right around the world and, you know, you just think, ‘It’s just so close – I must go and see these guys’,” said Law, who was then playing for Huddersfield and went to United’s first match after the tragedy. “I think a ticket was about 50p but we paid about four quid for it. It was an expensive evening.
“To think a few years later I joined the club and was playing with Sir Bobby and George Best, and the team that we had – we just had a wonderful time.
“It’s not easy, but it is easier to play the game when you play alongside players like Sir Bobby and George.”
Law also credits Charlton for helping him to his own exceptional United goals tally of 237 in 404 matches, which places him third on the club’s all-time list.
“When Bobby had the ball I knew where it was going,” Law said. “He had such a strong shot, really, that when he was outside the penalty area lining up for a crack at the goal – I knew that the keeper might save it, but there was a fair chance he might drop it because it was hit so hard.
“We had a good relationship. He’s one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet.”