Erik ten Hag believes Sir Bobby Charlton will always remain an inspiration to Manchester United as they prepare for their first home game since the World Cup-winner died on Saturday.
Tributes to Charlton, who was 86, will take place before Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Copenhagen, in the form of a minute’s silence, a wreath being placed on Charlton’s seat in the directors’ box and players and club staff wearing black armbands.
Charlton will also be remembered in the official programme for both the Copenhagen match and Sunday’s derby against Manchester City. There will be a minute’s applause prior to the City match as well as expressions of remembrance via flags and banners in the stadium.
Fans have already been flocking to Old Trafford to leave flowers, scarves and messages around the statue of Charlton, Denis Law and George Best – the ‘United Trinity’ – which is located outside the ground.
And when asked if Charlton would be an inspiration for his side not only on Tuesday but beyond, Ten Hag pointed to the statue.
“He is in front of Old Trafford,” Ten Hag said. “With Denis Law and George Best. He is always with us. They are always a huge inspiration for us, every day, and in every game.”
Ten Hag cited Charlton as an inspiration for his players in Saturday’s 2-1 win away to Sheffield United, secured by Diogo Dalot’s winner, but a match at Old Trafford will be an opportunity for the entire club to pay tribute on and off the pitch.
Ten Hag wants to mark the occasion with a victory, something United badly need in the Champions League after opening their Group A campaign with defeats against Bayern Munich and Galatasaray, while they have stuttered in the Premier League too.
“First we want to win as a tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton, but also you want always to do that in a certain way and that is what we are aiming for,” Ten Hag added. “It is not always possible in football, sometimes you don’t play that well but you have to find a way to win.
“I was happy on Saturday that we could show tribute with a win but also with the way we scored that second goal.”
Although they ground out the victory, United were again far from their best in Saturday’s win over the Blades, with social media full of grumbling from fans amid a pedestrian start to the campaign.
But Ten Hag said he continues to feel the firm backing of the supporters inside Old Trafford, and expects a special atmosphere on Tuesday night.
“It’s always special every night at Old Trafford, the fans are always so behind us,” the Dutchman said.
“I remember the last game, the home game against Brentford, even when the game is not going in our direction they stayed behind us in difficult moments and moments of adversity around Manchester United the fans are still with us and we are with the fans, we are fighting together.
“Definitely tomorrow after the passing away of Sir Bobby Charlton, their hero, their legend, their giant, I’m sure there will be an even more emotional evening tomorrow.”