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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 04:26 GMT
Family's wait for 'critical' Best
George Best

The family of George Best has endured an anxious night after doctors said the former Manchester United star faced a "critical" 24 hours in hospital.

Best was taken into intensive care at London's Cromwell Hospital on Friday after suffering a lung infection.

The 59-year-old is on a life-support machine and remains unconscious.

On Sunday evening, Professor Roger Williams, the doctor treating him, said Best had not worsened, but his lack of improvement was worrying.

I would imagine the situation will resolve itself naturally, that's what normally happens. It's not a case of switching off life support
Professor Roger Williams

"We would have liked to have seen him make some very definite improvement these past 24 hours, whereas he's remaining just the same," he said.

"The next 24 hours is very critical for Mr Best as to whether he is going to survive this infection and all the consequences of it on his body."

The former Northern Ireland international was originally admitted to the hospital on 1 October suffering from flu-like symptoms.

He had been showing signs of recovery but at the beginning of November he developed a kidney infection, and last week he was re-admitted to the intensive care unit with the lung infection.

'Public support'

His father, brother, sisters and son have visited, but he remains unconscious as he is on a ventilator.

Professor Williams said: "I would imagine the situation will resolve itself naturally, that's what normally happens. It's not a case of switching off life support."

Phil Hughes, Best's agent, said the family were taking strength from the support offered by the public.

"They are bearing up," he said. "They would like to say thank you to all the well-wishers. It's a very hard time for all of us."

Gifted player

Professor Williams oversaw Best's liver transplant three years ago.

Best's son, Calum, said after seeing his father: "I want to say that my dad is very ill at the moment but he is stable."

Belfast-born Best was arguably the most naturally gifted British footballer of his generation.

He made his professional debut for Manchester United in 1963, aged 17, and helped the club become the first English side to lift the European Cup in 1968.

Best was voted both English League and European Footballer of the Year that season and also won 37 international caps for Northern Ireland.

But his career was cut short by his lifestyle and addiction to alcohol, and in 2002, his years of drinking took their toll and he had a liver transplant.

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