Manchester bids Royal farewell to Sir Bobby Charlton

Sir Bobby Charlton has been laid to rest at Manchester Cathedral with Prince William, the heir to the British throne, and Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, leading the mourners.

Thousands of fans lined the apron of United's Old Trafford stadium to pay their respects as Charlton's funeral cortege drove past having passed through a guard of honour made up of United's academy teams.

Many hundreds more gathered outside the cathedral with more than 1,000 guests coming to pay their respects to the English football great, who died aged 86 last month.

Funeral cortege passes statue of  Best, Law and Charlton
The funeral cortege passes the Old Trafford statue of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Charlton will be remembered as arguably the greatest English footballer of all time, a World Cup winner in 1966 with his country and a winner of three league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup with Manchester United in 1968.

However, the eulogies read at Manchester Cathedral all highlighted how family came first with Sir Bobby's wife, Lady Norma, and his daughters Suzanne and Andrea in attendance.

His grandson William Balderston read the last of the tributes and recalled a "creative, fantastic storyteller" who would make up what he called "jelly and custard" tales to entertain and enthral his younger relatives.

He spoke of his "depth of gratitude" to Charlton and Lady Norma, adding: "They have shown me what devotion really is."

Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, who read the first eulogy, described Charlton as a "legend, an icon and a very dear and loyal, much-loved colleague and friend".

"Football is a tribal sport but Bobby was universally admired," Gill said.

Gill reeled off some of Charlton's astonishing career statistics - 758 United appearances, 249 goals, 106 England caps, 49 goals - but added: "The stat I really like is only two bookings and never being sent off."

There were team-mates from Charlton's own glory days - Alex Stepney, Paddy Crerand and Brian Kidd - with the guest list reading like a who's who of United's history for the last six decades.

International commitments limited attendance from current squad members but Harry Maguire, Tom Heaton, Jonny Evans and Luke Shaw were in attendance, while Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane were among a host of former players to attend.

From beyond the club, the Prince of Wales - the president of the Football Association, led a delegation from the governing body which also included current England manager Gareth Southgate.

Prine of Wales
The Prince of Wales, the FA President, enters Manchester Cathedral for the funeral service.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin's presence marked the international impact Charlton had as did that of Emilio Butragueno representing Real Madrid.

The funeral service began with the famous FA Cup anthem, Abide With Me, and also featured a rendition of 'How Great Thou Art' by Mancunian opera singer Russell Watson.

Gill hailed the "remarkable resolve" of Charlton in returning to action after the 1958 Munich air disaster, which claimed the lives of eight of his United team-mates.

"Bobby Charlton was a wonderful, humble man and I was at Manchester United because of Bobby Charlton," said Ferguson afterwards.

with AP