Sir Bobby Charlton: Manchester United legend and World Cup winner dies aged 86

Sir Bobby Charlton, England World Cup winner and Manchester United legend, has died at the age of 86.

A statement from Charlton’s 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.”

Charlton spent the vast majority of his professional career at Manchester United, scoring 249 goals in 758 games for the club. 

He won three league titles, a European Cup and an FA Cup with United during 17 years at Old Trafford.

United said: “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.”

Charlton was also a key member of the only England side to win the World Cup, scoring three goals — including a match-winning double in the semi-final win over Portugal — as Sir Alf Ramsey’s team won the tournament on home soil.

In 1966 he was named the Ballon d’Or winner, coming second in 1967 and 1968.

He is one of only nine players to have won the World Cup, the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or, along with Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paolo Rossi, Zinedine Zidane, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Lionel Messi.

Charlton was diagnosed with dementia in November 2020.

His wife, Lady Norma Charlton, expressed the hope that the knowledge of his diagnosis could help others. News of his diagnosis came after the deaths of his older brother Jack and fellow World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, both of whom were also diagnosed with dementia.

Bobby Charlton lifts the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 (PA via Getty Images)

Charlton was born in Ashington, Northumberland and signed amateur forms with Manchester United at the age of 15 before making his first-team debut in 1956, at 18.

Assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, who would later guide the club through tragedy, once said of Charlton: “We had a player who could move with the grace of a ballet dancer yet with dynamite in his boots.”

Charlton survived the Munich air disaster, when eight Manchester United footballers were among 23 people killed when their plane crashed in Germany in February 1958.

He was pulled from the wreckage by Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, later hailed as the ‘hero of Munich’. “He was a fantastic goalkeeper but more importantly a fantastic human being,” Charlton said after Gregg’s death in February 2020.

United won the First Division three times and the FA Cup once with Charlton a key player in their team, before he captained them to glory in the 1967-68 European Cup. He scored twice as United saw off Benfica 4-1 in an exciting final that went to extra time at Wembley Stadium.

Charlton left Manchester United to become manager of Preston North End in 1973.

He is equally well known for his success on the international stage. Charlton played in every minute of England’s triumphant 1966 World Cup campaign and was the national team’s record goal scorer until Wayne Rooney surpassed him in September 2015.

Charlton remains England’s third-record scorer with 49 goals, after Harry Kane beat Rooney’s record of 53 in March 2023. 

Charlton came second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 1958 and 1959, winning the lifetime achievement award in 2008. In 2016 United renamed Old Trafford’s South Stand in his honour.

He was knighted by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 ⁠— a title awarded to British nationals for achievements or service to the country by the monarch of the United Kingdom — and was given the freedom of the city of Manchester in 2009.

He is survived by his wife, Lady Norma, their daughters, Suzanne and Andrea, as well as their grandchildren.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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