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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 December 2005, 16:10 GMT
Football pays Best final respects
Sir Alex Ferguson
It was important that we attend
Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was among a host of football figures paying tribute to George Best at his funeral in Belfast on Saturday.

Ferguson attended the funeral before flying back for Manchester United's match with Portsmouth at Old Trafford.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was also present in Belfast, along with former Celtic boss Martin O'Neill.

Eriksson said: "I have never been to a funeral like that before. It was beautiful and I shed a few tears."

Dignitaries in attendance at the funeral included Best's former team-mates Denis Law and Harry Gregg.

Law caused gentle laughter among the mourners when he said: "I wouldn't have been surprised if he hadn't turned up today."

Former boxing champion Barry McGuigan, another close friend of Best, said: "I cried my bloody eyes out, but it was difficult not to when you think about his career and what has happened.

The songs were fantastic, the tributes unbelievable
Professor Roger Williams

"It's just so sad, but I suppose the good thing is that he lived 100 years in his 59 years.

"Nobody ever really knew George Best. People never got to know how decent, gracious and good a man he was."

Ferguson arrived at Stormont with Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

He said: "It's important we attend. It gives us a chance to meet George's family for the first time."

Professor Roger Williams, the consultant who operated when Best received a liver transplant said his patient had been a remarkable man.

He said: "It was moving. The songs were fantastic, the tributes unbelievable. It was wonderful."

Arsenal's 1970/71 double-winning captain Frank McLintock was also in attendance at Stormont for the funeral.

Sporting sons

Some of Belfast's most famous sporting sons, including former world snooker champions Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor, were present.

Former Northern Ireland international and ex-Leicester and Celtic boss O'Neill added: "Despite the fact he'd been ill for some time it's still a shock for everyone when the time comes.

Asked if Best had squandered his talent, he said: "I wouldn't mind having nine or 10 years like George had and then people telling me I'd wasted my talent."

Boxer Dave McCauley, former Northern Ireland football captain Derek Dougan, and Pat Jennings also crammed into the Stormont estate.

Former Spurs captain and Wales manager Mike England joined the mourners.

Inside the Great Hall John Delaney, chief executive of the Dublin-based Football Association of Ireland sat beside his Belfast-based counterpart, Howard Wells, and Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez in a show of cross-border solidarity in mourning.

Chief executive Brian Barwick and executive director David Davies were in attendance to represent the Football Association.




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