uncompromising full-back introduced the new boy to the big time with a couple of hefty challenges and the Welshman later admitted: “I wanted to intimidate George and give him a tough time. I like to think I kept him quiet. But I could tell he was going to be one of the greats. That summer I bumped into him on holiday in Majorca. He said: ‘I’ve still got the marks from those tackles,’ and I told him it was nice to see his face, because after that first game all I ever saw was the back of his head disappearing up the field!”
In the second half, Best was moved to the opposite wing to escape Williams and finally got the chance to show his talent, even if it meant refusing to pass to any of his team-mates. “The way I played wasn’t appreciated by the likes of Bobby Charlton,” admitted Best.
“I was the new kid who was supposed to show a bit of deference and give him the ball, but every time I got it I wanted to beat a couple of players. The team would be screaming for the ball, but I was a greedy little urchin.”
United eventually won 1-0 with a goal from David Sadler, but Best was disappointed with his debut: “I felt a little bit deflated because I knew I could have done better.”
Busby had been impressed with his prodigy, but not enough to keep him in the first team, and Best was sent back to the reserve and youth teams. The move left him “a little bit worried… but I was sure I was good enough, so I continued to work hard.”
In the next three months, United suffered an appalling run of form and lost eight league games, including consecutive Christmas hidings – 4-0 to Everton and 6-1 at Burnley. Best had not been expected to play any part over the festive period so Busby had allowed him to return home to Belfast. But after the Reds' Turf Moor humiliation, that decision was hastily reversed by telegram.
Best’s second start arrived on 28 December 1963 as Burnley came to Old Trafford and he scored his first goal as United avenged the defeat of two days earlier with a 5-1 win.
“Burnley’s left-back Alex Elder was a good player, but George destroyed him that day,” said Paddy Crerand. “I actually felt sorry for Alex. It was total annihilation. George was magnificent - from then on, United couldn’t leave him out.”