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By Nabil Hassan

Duncan Edwards
Edwards made his Manchester United debut at the age of 16

It is hard to describe just how good someone was, without having seen him play. All you can do is present the facts and leave the descriptions to people who know.

So when Bobby Charlton, World Cup and European Cup winner, describes someone as faultless then you start to get an idea of Duncan Edwards' greatness.

"He was my hero," Charlton told BBC Sport.

Charlton and Edwards were more than just members of the famed Busby Babes, they were best friends.

Edwards may have been just one year older than Charlton, but England's record goalscorer always felt in the shadow of his mate from Dudley.

Both were on a plane heading out of Munich on 6 February, 1958 along with the rest of the Manchester United squad following an earlier European fixture against Red Star in Belgrade.

606: DEBATE

On its third attempt to take off from an ice-covered runway Flight 609 crashed killing 23 of the 44 passengers on board.

Charlton survived the Munich air disaster, Edwards did not and with his death English football lost a truly prestigious talent.

Those who saw Edwards play say that if he had not died young, he would have gone on to become one of the all-time footballing greats, a statement supported by Charlton.

Charlton's opinion counts more than most. He played against Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. He played with George Best, Denis Law and England's World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore. But to Charlton, Edwards was king.

"Duncan was incomparable," said Charlton.

"He was such a talent, I always felt inferior to him.

"I feel terrible trying to explain to people just how good he was, his death was the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football.

"I always felt I could compare well with any player - except Duncan. He didn't have a fault with his game."

Edwards was born in Dudley on 1 October 1936. On his 16th birthday he signed for Manchester United. It is said he impressed one scout so much that he needed just 10 minutes of watching the young wing-half (defensive midfielder) to recommend him to Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby.

Duncan Edwards
Edwards won schoolboy honours before his England debut aged 18

He made his debut against Cardiff City 185 days later but at that stage he had already represented England school-boys and was being tipped for full honours.

At the age of 18 years and 183 days he became England's youngest post-war debutant, making his first appearance for his country against Scotland, and went on to win just 18 caps, scoring five goals.

By the time he reached his 21st birthday, he had won two League championships, an FA Cup finalists medals and three FA Youth Cup winners' medals.

Edwards was adored and respected all over the world, many say that had he not died on 6 February, 1958 it would have been him who went on to captain England to World Cup glory in 1966.

Instead that honour went to Bobby Moore who paid tribute to Edwards in his autobiography before his own death in 1993: "I once played truant from school to watch Duncan play at White Hart Lane. There will never be another player like him."

There will never be another player like him

Bobby Moore - 1966 World Cup winner

According to those who played alongside and against Duncan Edwards on a football field, he was the 'complete footballer'.

He had unrivalled stamina and could have run for hours. He could shoot powerfully with either foot, was dominant in the air, was strong in the tackle, and was a superb passer of the ball.

Think of Wayne Rooney's shot, Nemanja Vidic in the air, Roy Keane's tackle and Paul Scholes' pass and then you had Edwards.

"I totally believe he was the best player I ever saw or am likely to see," said Charlton.

His style as a player was often described as unique but it was his immense physical strength coupled with superb ball control and touch. Edwards was a boy in a man's body and when he spoke others listened, commanding respect despite his young age.

Edwards had a reputation as a quiet-mannered man who shunned publicity and the limelight, he just loved playing football.

Edwards died on 21 February in a Munich hospital, 15 days after the crash, unable to recover from the multiple injuries he suffered in the accident. He was only 21.

He became the eighth member of the Busby Babes to die as a result of the crash. Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Liam Whelan, Geoff Bent, Mark Jones the other members of the Manchester United squad to die.

Duncan Edwards was the best player I ever played with

Bobby Charlton

Five days later his body returned home to England where he was buried at a Dudley cemetery.

While it is difficult to predict how good Edwards could have been his legacy will long be debated, testament to his greatness, but for Charlton there is no argument. Edwards will always be the best.

"Duncan Edwards I unhesitatingly say was the best player I ever played with," concluded Charlton.

"I never thought I could be as good as him. Never. Never."

SEE ALSO
Story of Munich air disaster
04 Feb 08 |  Man Utd
Munich disaster poster vandalised
30 Jan 08 |  Manchester
Busby Babe remembers
30 Jan 08 |  Welsh
Minute's silence for Munich crash
28 Jan 08 |  Football
Man Utd to honour Munich victims
06 Dec 07 |  Man Utd
Charlton unveils Munich memorial
22 Sep 04 |  Manchester
Babes' autographs fetch 12,000
04 Oct 06 |  Manchester


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