Manchester United Change

Manchester United Graham Heywood

My first visit to Old Trafford was as a six year old in 1968. United weren't even playing. My whole family went to watch my Uncle Len play in an amateur cup final. He was some player Uncle Len.

Only one stand, the South Stand, was open yet I still managed to get lost in the crowd. My older brother and cousin, Len's son, rushed down to the tunnel at the end of the game. The plan was for Len to take us into that most magical of places, the home dressing room. Unfortunately the older lads got away from me. I missed the changing room trip and bawled my eyes out as I couldn't find my parents either. Not the best start.

My first United game was a much happier memory. The next year we played West Ham towards the end of the season. They had Moore, Hurst, Peters, basically England's World Cup team. Plus Clyde Best.

United had Charlton. Denis Law was injured so Brian Kidd played up front. But we had George Best. Georgie was, to a seven year old from a Manchester council estate, nothing short of a god. His looks, his clothes, his hair, his white E Type. But most of all, his football. He was like no footballer on earth.

Eusebio was fantastic, flamboyantly gifted. Our George could do that. Pele was outrageously talented, dominated games with skill and power combined. Our George could do that too.

I loved his arrogance. The same arrogance that a little scally like me had on the playground, except he was doing it against international superstars. He had skill, showmanship and bottle. He would fight anybody. If you never saw him play, he was like the love child of Diego Maradona and Billy Bremner, but better looking than Errol Flynn.

On the day in question we sat in the South Stand. I don't know where the tickets came from, but I felt like a millionaire having a seat. My Dad worked in a rubber factory so sitting at the football was not commonplace. It was out of our price range normally.

Old Trafford was bathed in late season sunshine. The noise was deafening. Geoff Hurst, a local lad from Ashton, scored two for the Hammers. He was England's World Cup hero after all. But star of the show was Bestie. He destroyed the West Ham defence with pace, trickery and aggression. It was the first time I had seen Bobby Moore and I am afraid that I wrote him off as past it and over rated. I didn't realise until years later that Georgie did this to all defenders.

George Best scored a hat trick, United won 5-3 and I went home with my faith in George Best's divinity confirmed.

On the way home my older brother tried to tell me that George Best and Clyde Best were brothers. I was no anthropologist but even I could see, at the age of seven, that George was a completely different body shape. I wasn't swallowing that one.

Graham Heywood. Author of Revenge Grows Harsh, a Mancunian thriller.

Follow Graham on Twitter @gheywood1


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