History: George Best

George Best was arguably one of the most talented footballers of his era who captivated his fans with his extraordinary skill, agility and flair.

Best was born on the Cregagh estate in Belfast on 22 May 1946 to Dickie and Anne Best and as a child he played football on the streets until Manchester United scout Bob Bishop discovered him playing in a local game.

Manchester United

Bishop was captivated by his raw talent and signed him for the youth team aged 15 in 1961. He was considered incredible during his time and he was there for two years until he made his professional debut in 1963.

Before long, George Best started playing for ‘Manchester United’ and was immediately loved by the fans with his fast and attractive style of playing.

What followed was four glorious seasons for both Best and his club, during which the team won a host of trophies.

Best honed a deadly partnership with Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, the two other ‘Manchester United’ greats and reached the pinnacle of his career when he led the club to European Cup triumph in 1968.

He played for Manchester United until 1974 and helped them to secure the league titles in 1964/65 and 1966/67.

George Best was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1967/68 and was awarded European Player of the year in 1968.

After the heights of winning the European Cup the downwards spiral begun and the team gradually declined.

United were relegated in 1973/74. Best was rarely seen at his best.

He was a major celebrity by this point and his life revolved around drinking and the celebrity culture. After a short stint in retirement in Spain George was tempted back to play. However his heart was not truly committed to the game and George left United when Tommy Doherty had took the reigns of the club. He was 27.

Throughout his stay with the club George made 470 appearances and scored 179 goals. After playing at United, Best entered a stage of semi-pro football status and would travel the world accepting money for one off games.

This would take him teams in Africa, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, and Australia.

Other teams including Stockport County, Los Angeles Aztecs, Fulham, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Hibernian, San Jose Earthquakes, and others. He eventually retired for good in 1984.

He had a renaissance period and temporary happiness in the USA where he seemed to escape the media, scrutiny and attention that followed him everywhere in England.

George was fit, healthy and lit up the MSL will some fantastic displays of creative football. At the Fort Lauderdale Strikers he would join up with the likes of Gerd Mueller, Gordan Banks and ex Manchester United team mate Tony Whelan.

GEORGE BEST
FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS

Northern Ireland

George Best earned 37 caps for the Northern Ireland National team and scored 9 goals. His frustration at never playing at a major tournament would haunt Best although he was considered for selection in 1982 aged 36.

Death

After many years of alcohol abuse George was given a liver transplant in 2002. He would still continue to drink though and sadly passed away in 2005 aged 56.

His passing was a big event to all football fans but most significantly to Man United and Northern Ireland.

Best was buried in Belfast and so significant was his passing huge crowds would line the streets to say goodbye.

Best was the first celebrity footballer and he has forever cemented his iconic status in pop and sports culture.

George famously was quoted saying that;

“In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol it was the worst twenty minutes of my life.”

His influence on the world of football showed and people adored him for that.

George left behind a son Callum from his first marriage to Angie MacDonald.