'Charlton was a gentleman; I can't begin to tell you about Best' – Real Madrid legend Zoco

The former Blancos midfielder, who played against the Red Devils in 1968, has fond memories of the “special flavour” at Old Trafford despite losing the match 1-0

By Alberto Pinero

Former Real Madrid midfielder Ignacio Zoco has spoken of his admiration for Manchester United icons George Best and Bobby Charlton, as the two clubs prepare to lock horns on Tuesday night.

Jose Mourinho’s side travel to Old Trafford after a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie, and Zoco – who played in the 1-0 defeat in April 1968 – believes the current Blancos players should relish the chance to play at such a stadium.

“Old Trafford is wonderful. It’s always a pleasure to play there. It has a special flavour,” he told Goal.com.

“The game was spectacular, there was a lot of expectation. In truth, I was afraid of Manchester, because the Manchester United team was fabulous.

“In Bobby Charlton, they had a young player who was a joy to watch, a great player, a gentleman on and off the pitch. And George Best? I can’t even begin to tell you…”

Zoco scored an infamous own goal in the 3-3 second-leg draw at Santiago Bernabeu which allowed United to progress to the final, and he admits it has become a rather unwanted personal legacy.

“We suffered in the second half of the second leg, they were very strong,” he said of the match.

“The own goal I scored marked the rest of my career, the rest of my life. Ninety per cent of the people that currently recognize me do so because of the own goal I scored against Manchester!”

Much of the pre-match focus has centred on Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Portugal star returns to the Old Trafford turf for the first time since sealing his world-record transfer to Spain in 2009.

Zoco believes Madrid’s season will be something of a disappointment if they are knocked out by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, but he has backed Ronaldo as the man to make the difference as he will want to remind the Red Devils of what they are missing.

“If they do not win, Real Madrid will seem a little lame,” he said. “I’m not already talking of failure or disappointment because it’s hard to predict things in football, but it would not be a brilliant season if they only win the Copa del Rey – if they win it, of course.

“Ronaldo is in an extraordinary moment. He is the most in-form player in Spain. He has a craving to score, he always wants to play and you can always rely on him.

“I suppose he wants to shine in Manchester as he was there for many years, even though he loves them, but he will want to show how good he is for precisely for that reason.

“Will he still be at the club next year? Of course I can see it. He still has years on his contract. I can’t see him in another team. It’s the best thing that can happen to Madrid, without a doubt.”

Finally, the 73-year-old commented on Fernando Redondo’s memorable back-heel trick during the 99/00 quarter-final, describing it as a “beautiful” moment which has ingrained itself on the memories of supporters.

“That Redondo back-heel has become fixed in people’s brains!” he added. “It was beautiful to see it performed there. It was Raul who scored twice that night, but everyone remembers the back-heel.”

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