Tributes begin pouring in for former Man United defender Bill Foulkes, who has died aged 81

Foulkes passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. Photo: PA

Tributes have started pouring in for former Man United defender Bill Foulkes, who has died aged 81

Foulkes was one of the survivors of the Munich air disaster who went on to win the European Cup.

United said Foulkes passed away in the early hours of Monday morning.

Foulkes made his debut for United in 1952 and went on to play 688 times for the club - a figure only surpassed by Ryan Giggs, Sir Bobby Charlton and Paul Scholes.

Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward paid tribute to Foulkes, saying: "Bill was a giant character in the post-war history of Manchester United.

"He was a very gentle man, who I was privileged to meet on several occasions, including most memorably with his team-mates at the Champions League final in Moscow, 50 years after his heroics in the Munich air crash.

"Bill's contribution over almost 700 games and nearly 20 years will never be forgotten. The thoughts of everyone at the club - directors, players, staff and fans - are with Bill's family."

Foulkes captained Man United in their first game after the Munich air disaster, against Sheffield Wednesday. Credit: PA

Bobby Charlton described his old friend and colleague as "a marvellous man" and said the news of his death was "very sad".

"He was as hard as nails, as tough as teak - I was always glad I didn't have to play against him," Charlton told Press Association Sport.

"He was a really, really good defensive player and you could say he helped change the course of history for United.

"He survived the Munich air crash and then became the captain for a time."

Charlton recalled: "I couldn't believe what he was doing in the Madrid penalty area in the first place, something must have been triggered in his mind, then George Best crossed it and Bill sidefooted the ball into the back of the net.

"It was one of the most important matches in the history of Manchester United so you could say he helped changed that history."

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Thoughts are with the friends and family of Bill Foulkes, so sad to hear he passed away this morning. Great servant to this club. RIP #mufc

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Sad to hear news of Bill Foulkes passing away. Great servant to the club. Thoughts are with his family. #Mufc

he club's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward also paid tribute to Foulkes, saying: "Bill was a giant character in the post-war history of Manchester United.

"He was a very gentle man, who I was privileged to meet on several occasions, including most memorably with his team-mates at the Champions League final in Moscow, 50 years after his heroics in the Munich air crash.

"Bill's contribution over almost 700 games and nearly 20 years will never be forgotten. The thoughts of everyone at the club - directors, players, staff and fans - are with Bill's family."