George Best was the British game's first superstar, and he features in the second part of our look at United's 50 most heroic moments from the last half a century...
11. Foulkes’ finest hour: Real Madrid, 15 May 1968
Was there ever a more unlikely goal-scoring hero than battle-hardened defender Bill Foulkes? More than a decade after tasting defeat in the Bernabéu in our first European Cup semi-final, Foulkes found himself back in Madrid, again staring up a mountain as Real built a 3-2 aggregate lead. David Sadler levelled matters with 19 minutes remaining, and a replay in Lisbon loomed. Just six minutes later, as George Best pulled a ball back across the hosts’ penalty area, there was Foulkes, “the last man any of us wanted to see there” according to Sir Bobby Charlton, to calmly sidefoot home a tie-tipping goal – one of only nine in 688 appearances. Foulkes recalled: “Matt asked me what on earth I had been doing in their penalty area, and I could offer no rational explanation.” Being 10 years after Munich, divine intervention wasn’t far from the mind…
12. Robson eclipses Maradona and dumps out Barcelona, 21 March 1984
You have a two-goal first leg deficit to overturn in Europe. You’re at home, but you’re playing Barcelona. And Diego Maradona. Tall order… unless your name’s Bryan Robson. Herculean efforts were run-of-the-mill for Captain Marvel, but this 1983/84 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup quarterfinal clash was something else. Maradona was outshone by Robbo, whose goals either side of half-time broke Catalan resolve. Frank Stapleton applied the coup de grace on one of the legendary Old Trafford nights.
13. Charlie Roberts faces down the FA’s bigwigs, 1909
In an era where shorts were long and moustaches were must-haves, box-to-box centre-half Charlie Roberts’ short shorts, clean-shaven face and close crop went against the grain. And he was as forward-thinking off the pitch. In 1909, Roberts and United team-mates – including Billy Meredith – railed against the game’s administrators and conditions they considered exploitative. In a bid to abolish the maximum wage and challenge the restriction of player’s movement between clubs, Roberts restored the defunct Players’ Union in 1907. And he came within a hair’s breadth of leading a national strike in 1909, just weeks after lifting United’s first FA Cup. At the 11th hour the Football Association agreed to recognise the union, and Roberts – who had stuck resolutely to his principles – struck a huge blow for player power. He duly became the union’s