and that hurt more than him beating you! He was a lovely guy off the pitch, very shy. A lovely, gentle fella.
“People talk about great players from different eras and whether they would be as good today. George would be better in the modern game. He wouldn’t be getting clattered from behind, he would get more protection from referees and he'd be playing on truer surfaces, not the awful grounds we used to play on.”
Another teenage debutant on the day, the young West Brom defender went head-to-head with Best when he switched wings.
“We had an injury, which meant Don Howe, the England full-back, went to wing-half and I came in at right-back for my debut at 19.
“It was a big game to play in, the crowd at Old Trafford was very intimidating, 50,000 people there. I think they held the kick-off up to get everybody in.
“I’d seen George play a week or two before because he played in the Reserves against us, but we didn’t have any sense that he was going to be the big danger. I don’t remember Jimmy Hagan, the manager, talking about George before the game because he was just a young lad making his debut.
“My job was marking Bobby Charlton, so that was enough for me to worry about before the game! I was a couple of years older than George and I knew how nervous I was before the match, so I assumed he’d be the same.
“After about 20 minutes, George came over to my side after Graham [Williams] had chipped him into the crowd! He didn’t just stay on the left wing after that, he wandered about a bit. We had a good contest and I thought I did okay – he didn’t make headlines, so I must have kept him reasonably quiet. However, he was such a tricky player, sharp, good acceleration. He loved to take you on, beat you with his close control, the ball was glued to him. He would do the unusual, things nobody expected, he had a great imagination.
“It was a more physical game then and I think his greatest asset was bravery, he had real courage. He took such a battering from defenders, but he would never give up – he kept coming back at you. If you got the ball off him, he’d be straight back at you, trying to get it back, and then he’d be taking you on again.”
Williams and Crawford were speaking to Inside United for a special George Best tribute edition of the magazine, which goes on sale Wednesday September 11.
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