Monday 19th September will mark the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with Britain’s longest-reigning monarch having sadly passed away at the age of 96 just over a week ago after over 70 years on the throne.
Mourners the world over have come together in collective grief as recognition of her lifetime of service to both her country and to the Commonwealth, with few figures having been quite so widely respected and admired.
A pillar of society and an icon of British and Global history, the Queen had been a figurehead for generation after generation, with the country unlikely to see a monarch of such dedication and longevity again.
Amid an ever-changing world, she remained one of the few constants, having witnessed and also played her part in some of the key events of both the 20th and 21st centuries, be it war, political, cultural or sporting.
From a footballing perspective, her longevity can be best illustrated by her links to one club in particular in the form of Manchester United, having seen first-hand a team quite literally rebuilt from the ashes under Sir Matt Busby, to then tasting treble glory under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Having ascended to the throne in 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI – with her coronation taking place a year later – she had been in place when disaster struck in Munich in 1958, claiming the lives of 23 people – including eight Red Devils players.
The Queen had stated her “sympathy and that of her husband to the families of those who have been killed and to the injured” following that tragedy, although was fittingly present five years later as United claimed their first trophy post-Munich in the 1963 FA Cup final, presenting the trophy to Busby’s triumphant heroes.
Having witnessed the fall and subsequent rise of the club under the aforementioned Ferguson from afar, she was able to mark United’s treble success in 1999, handing the club’s iconic manager a knighthood that same year while reportedly suggesting that such a unique triumph won’t “ever be achieved again”, according to Ferguson.
There has even been claims made by former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson that the Queen’s favourite player was at one stage Michael Owen – who enjoyed a brief, three-year stint at Old Trafford – although the jury is out on whether or not he was her favourite pundit…
Such moments may seem trivial in a life that was littered with important and fulfilling service, although it merely reflects the length of her reign and the multitude of lives and figures that she had touched.
It was also somewhat fitting that United were one of the first clubs to be able to mark her death before the defeat to Real Sociedad just over a week ago, with the home crowd – as well as the smattering of away supporters – holding an impeccably observed minutes silence.
While a game tinged in sadness as it was held just a matter of hours after her sad passing had been made public, the muted atmosphere and obvious signs of emotion were a marker of just how much she meant to the club, the country and its people.