United had steadily tumbled down the First Division pecking order, following a second-placed finish with successive slots in seventh, then a nervy 15th. The 1962/63 league campaign was an unmitigated disaster and culminated in a panic-inducing 19th spot. The FA Cup, however, had provided a platform free of cumulative pressure, and Busby’s underdogs overcame Leicester City at Wembley to win the club’s first post-Munich trophy.
Law had been key to the success. Aside from opening the scoring against the Foxes at Wembley, the Scot had bagged a further five strikes in the Reds’ FA Cup run, including the only goal of the semi-final clash with Southampton, and in all competitions he had snaffled a healthy haul of 29 goals.
Busby had utilised the transfer market to bolster his squad with the captures of Law, Pat Crerand and others, but still he returned regularly to his trusty well of home-nurtured talent, and he prepared to unleash a wiry young Ulsterman who would complete the Trinity in 1963/64.
“I always remember someone coming into the dressing room and saying: 'What a player we’ve got from Ireland in the youth team',” recalled Charlton. “I just put it in the back of my mind. And then the name kept cropping up: ‘That little Best’.”
A big name for a little lad but, sure enough, the hype was more than justified. George turned down trials with clubs in the Irish League and instead strode onto centre stage at United, wand in hand, and set about stupefying English football with his wizardry. "The surprising thing I found was how easy it was,” George later laughed.
In the same way Ryan Giggs would be eased into prominence by Sir Alex Ferguson, Best’s genius was drip-fed into the United approach. Three months passed between his debut and his second outing as he continued to feature for the Reds’ youth team, but thereafter he became a first-team fixture. On 18 January 1964, Best joined Law and Charlton in the starting line-up for the first time, and the trio shared