12/09/2013 09:00, Report by A Bostock, M Shaw

George Best's finest hour

George Best gave arguably the greatest performance of his career on 9 March 1966, when United became the first foreign visitors to beat Benfica in Lisbon.

The Portuguese giants had won the European Cup twice and had reached four finals in the previous five years. But such reputations were like a red rag to the bullish Best. Within 12 minutes of this quarter-final second leg, he had put United 2-0 up, 5-2 on aggregate, with a header and a magnificent solo goal. By half-time, the Reds were further ahead through John Connelly.

Best later recalled in Blessed, his autobiography: "Perhaps it was because I was so wrapped up in my performance. I barely remember half-time, except for the fact that we were celebrating and Matt Busby was trying to tell us that we had to be careful, that it wasn’t over. But after Shay Brennan knocked in an owngoal, Pat Crerand and Bobby Charlton both scored in the second half and we had an unbelievable 5-1 win. It was surreal stuff. To be a part of such an experience was unreal."

Of his wonderful second goal, Best said: "I dipped a shoulder and swerved inside a defender – I knew from that point I was going to score. A second defender came at me but I knocked it past him. I looked up to see the ‘keeper coming towards me. I caught the look of uncertainty in his eye and instead of waiting for him to move, I knocked it past him before he could make his mind up. It has to be one of my favourite ever goals."

More: Team-mates recall Best's debut | Best's debut: Opposition view | Best's first season


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