George Best

George BestAt 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.”[7][8] His local club Glentoran had previously rejected him for being “too small and light”.[9] Best was subsequently given a trial and signed up by chief scout Joe Armstrong.

Best made his Manchester United debut, aged 17, on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1-0 victory. Two weeks later Best scored his first goal against Burnley. By the close of the season Best had six goals, and Manchester United finished second, behind champions Liverpool.

In his second season, 1964-65, Best and Manchester United claimed the league title. Best hit the headlines the age of twenty when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966, and was dubbed “El Quinto Beatle” (The Fifth Beatle) in the press. Best’s talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. He was dubbed “the fifth Beatle” for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, and even appeared on Top of the Pops in 1965.[10] Other nicknames included the “Belfast Boy” and he was often referred to as Georgie or Geordie in his native Belfast.[11]

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 that began a steady decline.

He 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. However, he developed problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism.

In 1974, aged 27, Best quit United. His last competitive game for the club was on 1 January 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

In total Best made 466 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 178 goals (including six in one game against fourth division Northampton Town). 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 America, Scotland, and Australia.

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