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Manchester United legend Bill Foulkes passes away as former San Jose Earthquakes coach mourned

Nov 25, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Obit Foulkes AP

Sad news arrived today as Bill Foulkes died at the age of 81.

The former Manchester United captain, who survived the horrific Munich air disaster in 1958 and captained United following the tragedy, leaves behind a magnificent legacy in a glittering career that spanned 18 successful years at Old Trafford.

For many Foulkes was the figurehead of United’s revival from the devastating plan crash that left one of England’s finest ever teams in ruins as several of his teammates lost their lives. After recovering from his own injuries, Foulkes was made captain by Sir Matt Busby and lead his team to victory in the 1968 European Cup final, four league titles and an FA Cup along the way. From 1952-1970, Foulkes made 688 appearances for United, a tally which has only been surpassed by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Sir Bobby Charlton.

After his incredible career with United as a player, Foulkes headed Stateside and coached in the USA during the 1970s. In the old NASL he took charge of the Tulsa Roughnecks, Chicago Sting and then the San Jose Earthquakes in short spells before he left to manage in Norway.

Legends of the game in England and across the world have been paying their respects to Foulkes who was born in St Helens in Lancashire and rose to prominence as a no-nonsense full back after spending most of his early days working in the coal mines.

Sir Alex Ferguson had this to say about Foulkes.

“The story of his life was absolutely incredible,” Ferguson said, “and he’s assured of his place in our history by his appearances and by the way he performed, particularly in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster. Having gone through that, how he and Harry Gregg managed to perform a couple of weeks later, leading those young lads out against Sheffield Wednesday – and winning the game – was absolutely incredible. He was an exceptional man.”

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