Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton has died at the age of 86, the Premier League club announced Saturday.
Charlton was part of England’s World Cup-winning side in 1966, and two years later scored twice as Manchester United won the European Cup at Wembley.
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A club statement read on Saturday: “Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club.
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.
“He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.
“A graduate of our youth Academy, Sir Bobby played 758 games and scored 249 goals during 17 years as a Manchester United player, winning the European Cup, three league titles and the FA Cup. For England, he won 106 caps and scored 49 goals for England, and won the 1966 World Cup.
“Following his retirement, he went on to serve the club with distinction as a director for 39 years. His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will be forever etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.
“The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.”
After joining United as a schoolboy in 1953, Charlton was a member of the famed academy under manager Sir Matt Busby — with the players becoming affectionately known as the “Busby Babes” — and won three successive FA Youth Cups from 1954 to 1956.
Charlton made his professional debut that same year and won his first league title in the 1956-57 season, scoring 10 goals in 14 First Division appearances.
On Feb. 6, 1958, the club was rocked by the Munich air disaster, which claimed the lives of 23 people, including eight United players. Charlton suffered minor injuries but survived. He then helped the club reach that year’s FA Cup final, only to lose 2-0 against Bolton Wanderers.
Charlton was an integral part of the rebuilding process that followed the tragedy, and United won the FA Cup in 1963, their first major honour post-Munich, before winning the league two years later.
In 1966-67, United reclaimed the title and became England’s first European champions 12 months on when Charlton captained the side to a 4-1 victory over Benfica.
He retired in 1980 following spells at Preston, at Waterford and in Australia with Newcastle KB United, Perth Azzurri and Blacktown City. Charlton also managed Preston from 1973 to 1975.
A statement from his family read: “It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was surrounded by his family.
“His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him. We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.”
His record of 758 United appearances was broken by Ryan Giggs in 2008, and his club-record goals tally of 249 stood until 2017 when Wayne Rooney surpassed it.
Charlton enjoyed a fantastic relationship with George Best and Denis Law, and the trio were honoured with a statue outside Old Trafford in 2008.
He was also part of England’s greatest success: their sole World Cup victory in 1966. Charlton scored both goals as England beat Portugal 2-1 in the semifinals and helped his country to 4-2 victory over West Germany in the final at Wembley.
Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat trick in that final and who is now the only surviving member of Alf Ramsey’s World Cup-winning side, led the tributes to his former teammate.
“Very sad news today. One of the true Greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away,” Hurst wrote on X.
“We will never forget him and nor will all of football. A great colleague and friend, he will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone.”
Charlton won the Ballon d’Or award that year — one of only four Englishmen to have claimed the honour — and was also part of the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cup squads, as well as the Euro 1968 party. In total, he won 106 caps, and his record of 49 international goals was again beaten by Rooney in 2015.
He was awarded a knighthood in 1994. Charlton’s brother Jack was also part of England’s World Cup-winning side.
“Today is not just a sad day for Manchester United and England; it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented,” said former Man United and England midfielder David Beckham.
Man United beat Sheffield United 2-1 on Saturday, with the players wearing black armbands and observing a minute’s silence before the match.
A book of condolence will be open for fans at Old Trafford on Sunday and United manager Erik ten Hag paid tribute to Charlton.
“The whole world is losing a big personality, a legend, a giant,” Ten Hag said.
“At Manchester United, you always have to win, but I think he set this standard as a Man United player, what he achieved; he’s an example.”
England’s Football Association said a full tribute will be paid to Charlton at Wembley Stadium when England play Malta on Nov. 17.
“The world of football will unite in its sadness at losing an undisputed legend,” England manager Gareth Southgate said.
Reuters contributed to this story.