Sir Bobby Charlton

1 Dec

United Career: January 1953 – May 1973
Birthplace: Ashington
Date of Birth: 11 October 1937
Position: Forward/Left Winger/Centre Midfielder
United Games: 766 Goals: 253
England 106 games 49 goals

I think one thing surprises me more than any other speaking to United fans is actually how little they know about one of our greatest ever players. Countless fans think he was a striker. He wore the number 9 shirt and is our all time leading goal scorer and England’s but he did that primarily from centre midfield.

He did start his United career for the first three seasons as a goalscorer/finisher but then in the 1960 season he was pushed out to the left wing. He would frequently use his electric pace to beat a player cut in and blast the ball past the keeper. He scored 21 goals in his first season in that position and stayed there for 3 or 4 seasons but he didn’t like it. He found himself too isolated during games and wanted to be more involved. Jimmy Murphy claims it was United who moved him in to centre midfield first although many disagree and claim it was England who used him in that position first. Either way his partnership with the ball winning Crerand was very successful and Paddy referred to Bobby as “pure poetry” on the pitch!

Bobby Charlton was only booked once and that was rescinded and his longest period out of the game due to injury was 2 weeks. He was very quick, faster than Best and was genuinely two footed, it wasn’t possible to know which was his stronger foot as he didn’t have one. He was a superb passer, at times he was criticised for too many Hollywood passes rather than keeping it simple especially in his early days. And while the joke was he went bald due to heading the ball the truth was he very rarely headed the ball and it wasn’t his strength although watching the European Cup final you wouldn‘t know that. He had a blistering shot, his trade mark was moving up a gear or two in centre midfield dropping a shoulder to create space or go past an opponent of course it didn’t matter to him if he went left or right and then would let rip. He had a superb engine and despite being a smoker he would cover tremendous ground each game. Although he wasn’t a ball winner.

He was very close to Jimmy Murphy and gives him enormous credit for developing his engine and two footed technique. And his understand of the game – when to keep the game simple and when to try to change a game.

Bobby was apparently a carefree individual before Munich but that changed after and he was often seen as moody and distant although apparently he did have a wicked sense of humour. His relationship with Best was not always on good terms and Best in one of his books admitted to not passing to Bobby on the pitch. Bobby loved United and did not like what Best’s antics were doing to the club. And there was even a short period when Denis Law and Charlton were not on speaking terms. While new signing Ted McDougall argues Bobby hardly spoke a word to him while he was at the club.

Bobby had become club captain In the season 1968/9 he had taken over from Denis Law who had taken it over from Noel Cantwell. The state that the club was in had hurt Bobby more than most and probably saw it as his job to try to get the club back to its rightful place.

Tommy Docherty in his autobiography is critical of Best and Law as players but he has nothing but good things to say about  Sir Bob.

Bobby’s best friend at the club was Nobby Stiles!

Follow me on Twitter @themancunianred

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6 Responses to “Sir Bobby Charlton”

  1. Loso blue December 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Would like more articles like this on united legends please.well done

  2. Ian Hough February 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Good stuff, the two-footed thing especially. I think people take that “electric pace” for granted and focus instead on the sizzling long-rangers Bobby was famous for. Enjoyed that, cheers.

    • themancunianred February 6, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      Cheers, I know so many who were gobsmacked to find out Charlton was quicker than Best and I agree most think about the thunderous shots and long passes he had tremendous stamina as well drilled in to him by one of his heroes Jimmy Murphy. I think the most common mistake though is that they think he was a main striker due to the number of goals and that he wore the number 9.

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