George Best had starred for Manchester United as they won the English league title in 1967
Matt Busby, the United manager set the team the goal of winning the European Cup, having come so close two years previously.
The team took to the challenge and set about terrorising teams across Europe as they beat all before them before meeting European aristocrats Real Madrid in the semi finals. United won the first leg 1-0 at home before coming back from 3-1 down in Madrid to secure a 3-3 draw on the night and a 4-3 aggregate win to send them into the final.
Best v Eusebio
It was the final that posed the biggest ask of Best and his United team mates. Benfica, who had former world player of the year Eusebio in their ranks, stood in the way of Best and European glory. The game was a tight affair with United taking the lead only for Benfica to draw level to tie the game after ninety minutes.
The game went to extra time and it was then that Best wrote his name into the history books forever. Just three minutes after the restart, Best put United in the lead for the second time on the night and his goal proved to be the one that changed the game.
United scored twice more in the first half of extra time as the floodgates opened and they finished comfortable winners in the end. Best had won the biggest trophy available in club football. Manchester United became the first English team to achieve success in Europe’s top competition.
Best was recognised by all for his contribution to United’s success and received the Football Writer’s Player of the Year award as well as the European Footballer of the Year in 1968.
Scoring from everywhere
For the next few years Best continued to star for United. Matt Busby moved him across all the forward positions to compensate for injuries to team mates and to fully utilise Best’s abilities. He scored consistently from whatever position he was played and remained the most exciting player in the league.
Best even scored an incredible six goals in one match against lower league Northampton Town in a cup game when his skills were just too much for the hapless defenders to contend with.
However, United failed to add any more silverware to their cabinet as Best became distracted with off field activities. He opened two nightclubs as well as a boutique store and spent more and more of his time gambling, womanising and drinking.
The boy from Belfast
For all his achievements with Manchester United, Best never got to showcase his skills at a World Cup as he was a native of Northern Ireland, a team without the resources to maintain a realistic challenge in international football.
Best did, however, play for his country for over a decade, making 37 appearances and scoring nine goals.
Best walks out on United
In 1974 George Best shocked the world of football by walking out on Manchester United at the age of just 27. In what should have been his prime, Best decided that he had had enough and walked out on the biggest football club in England.
He became a footballing nomad for the remainder of his career. Best had spells with Stockport County, Cork Celtic, Los Angeles Aztecs, Fulham, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Hibernian, San Jose Earthquakes, Bournemouth and Brisbane Lions. His reputation was enough to always find a club that wanted him, but Best never again found a club that he wanted after he left Manchester United. He travelled back and forth across the world trying to find a place he could call home but always ended up returning to England.
In reality it was a waste of his best years but Best had achieved all he could in the game and his temperament and lack of professionalism saw his career peter out without ever achieving greatness again.
One drink too many
Unfortunately, George Best never managed to control his wild lifestyle. He became addicted to alcohol and was married and divorced twice. He eventually lost his battle with the bottle when he passed away in 2005. Football mourned for one of the greatest players it has ever produced.
Where did it all go wrong George? – Read more