Prince William and Alex Ferguson Attend Funeral of Man United Great Bobby Charlton

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
The cortege of English soccer icon Bobby Charlton passes by the statue of Manchester United trio of George Best, left, Denis Law, center, and Sir Bobby Charlton outside Old Trafford stadium on its way to the funeral service at Manchester Cathedral in Manchester, England, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Prince William headed the list of dignitaries who attended the funeral of Manchester United and England great Bobby Charlton on Monday.

The future king of England attended the service at Manchester Cathedral in his role as president of the Football Association.

Andy Kelvin/PA via AP
Britain’s Prince William arrives for the funeral service for English soccer icon Bobby Charlton at Manchester Cathedral, Manchester, England, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

Charlton, who was widely regarded as the greatest English soccer player in history, died last month. He was 86.

Around 1,000 guests, including former teammates and leading sporting figures, attended his funeral, while fans paid their respects outside United’s Old Trafford and the cathedral in the city center.

Fan Derek Pratt said he travelled more than 160 kilometers from Hertfordshire to say farewell to “a real gentleman.”

“He (Charlton) didn’t really want the limelight, he just got on with things,” Pratt said. “He was just a really nice person. If there were more Bobby Charltons in the world we would have a nicer place.”

The funeral cortege began at Old Trafford, where it passed through a guard of honor made up of United’s academy teams. At the cathedral, guests included former United manager Alex Ferguson, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and England coach Gareth Southgate.

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
Alex Ferguson former manager of Manchester United arrives for the funeral of English soccer icon Bobby Charlton in Manchester, England, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

Charlton’s iconic status meant he was revered by fans around the world as an ambassador of the game.

“When talking about the man, you never needed to say anything other than Sir Bobby — everyone around the world knew who you were talking about, no surname needed,” said former United CEO David Gill in a tribute at the service.

Charlton played for United from 1956-73, making 758 appearances. He scored 249 goals for the club and won three league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup.

Charlton survived a plane crash in 1958 that decimated a United team that seemed destined for greatness. He then went on to help his country win the 1966 World Cup and lifted the European Cup with United two years later.

“He is the standard bearer,” former United player Darren Fletcher said. “What he’d been through. People talk about the pressure and what it takes to play for Manchester United, but nobody’s been through what Sir Bobby Charlton’s been through, and to still perform, drive the club forward, take on that responsibility as a young lad, to do it in memory of his teammates and drive the club forward to what it is today . . . the history of the club is built on that foundation.”

Charlton held the record as England’s leading scorer with 49 goals in 106 appearances until Wayne Rooney surpassed him in 2015. Harry Kane extended the record this year to 61.

Charlton also won the Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.

United manager Erik ten Hag was not present due to what the club described as an “unbreakable and long-standing personal commitment in the Netherlands.” But first-team players Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Jonny Evans and Tom Heaton did attend.

A number of United players were not available due to commitments to their national teams.

Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane were among a host of former players to attend.

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
A man holds the program of the funeral service for English soccer icon Bobby Charlton outside Manchester cathedral following the service in Manchester, England, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. Charlton who played largely for Manchester United survived a plane crash that decimated a United team destined for greatness, he went on to became the heartbeat of his country’s 1966 World Cup triumph.