The 71-year-old played for Manchester United from the age of 15
Football legend Sir Bobby Charlton said he was "very proud" to be given the freedom of the city of Manchester.
The 71-year-old was made a freeman of the city during a ceremony at the town hall in Albert Square.
Sir Bobby made his debut for Manchester United in 1956 and played for the club for 17 years.
He joins other famous figures, including Sir Winston Churchill, US president Woodrow Wilson and Sir Alex Ferguson who have received the honour.
His name has been added to the wall of fame at the town hall.
Sir Bobby said: "I'm just so proud, it's fantastic. It's a great city. I have always been very proud of it.
"It's never been afraid to try things. It's a brave decision-making city.
"I've worked in Manchester ever since I was 15 but I'm a Geordie and I come from the North East and I am really proud about that.
"I'm really proud for my family and Manchester United."
The 1966 World Cup player, who gained 106 caps for England, said his "work ethic" was the reason for his success in football.
The motion for Sir Bobby to be made an honorary freeman was passed by the council in December.
Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "He's been a fantastic ambassador for the city."
Off the pitch, the former footballer helped with Manchester's Olympics bid and the Commonwealth Games.
Sir Alex and some members of Manchester United are expected to attend the ceremony.