Soccer-Ten Hag lays wreath on Old Trafford pitch in moving tribute to Charlton

By Lori Ewing

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag laid a wreath in the centre of the storied Old Trafford pitch on Tuesday in a stirring tribute to club great Bobby Charlton ahead of their Champions League group-stage match against FC Copenhagen.

Ten Hag, who has called Charlton a “leader” and a “giant,” Charlton’s former team mate Alex Stepney, and Under 19s team captain Dan Gore followed a lone piper playing “The Red Flag” on to the pitch.

Charlton, an England World Cup winner and one of Manchester United’s greatest players, died on Saturday at the age of 86.

“We love you Sir Bobby… a hero to millions, the finest English footballer the world has ever seen. You will live on in our hearts forever,” the public address announcer said, before asking for a minute’s silence.

Supporters then broke into “There’s only one Bobby Charlton!”

Hours before kick-off, fans flocked to Old Trafford’s Trinity Statue of Charlton, George Best and Denis Law — the trio of former United greats — waiting in line to carefully add bouquets and scarves to the hundreds already encircling the statue’s base.

The words “Sir Bobby Charlton, 1937-2023, Forever Loved,” had been added over Old Trafford’s main entrance, a wreath was placed in Charlton’s seat inside the stadium and the players wore black armbands for the game.

Charlton was a key figure in England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team, playing alongside his brother Jack, and he made 758 appearances for United, scoring 249 goals.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; editing by Clare Fallon)