As we pass 50 years since the United Trinity of Best, Charlton and Law first played together for the Reds, Steve Bartram assesses the impact of the legendary trio...
Perched on the frontage of Old Trafford’s East Stand, Sir Matt Busby has the prime location to savour the bronze immortality of three of his finest players: the United Trinity.
Purveyors of meandering sorcery, remorseless rapacity and rampant majesty respectively, George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton blended a brilliance that lasted for the decade in which they graced the same fields, and even now – 50 years since they first played together – remains emblematic of everything Manchester United stands for.
The success they enjoyed may not tally with that of their counterparts amid the trophy-Hoovering ranks of Sir Alex Ferguson’s dynasty but the Trinity’s was an influence that transcended success. They brought together contrasting talents and characteristics in a concoction that sparked and sparkled, but most importantly brought joie de vivre back to a club still rebuilding itself after the trauma of Munich.
An original Busby Babe, Charlton was the only member of the Trinity to have known the horrors of 6 February 1958. Less than 18 months after his first-team debut and still aged just 20, the attacking midfielder had to be dragged from the flaming wreckage by Harry Gregg, and he awoke to an incomprehensible carnage that left deep emotional scars on all who witnessed it.
Already a champion, having featured in the Babes’ 1956/57 title retention, Charlton would not sample silverware again for five seasons as the focus of Matt Busby and his club switched to the overriding need to regenerate. Title races and cup runs came and went – the Reds incredibly finished second in 1958/59 – but still paled into insignificance against the rawness of Munich. Trophies weren’t coveted for the sake of success until the 1962 arrival of Law.