Wonderkid to world-beater: George Best's first five seasons in photographs

21. Quietening the neighbours

30 Sep 1967: Best in action at Manchester City. After three seasons outside the top flight, the Maine Road men were back on the scene and hunting their first league title since 1937.

The managerial double-act of avuncular Joe Mercer and innovative coach Malcolm Allison had clinched the Second Division title in 1965; although City had finished in lower mid-table in their first season back – this in an era when Ipswich had won the league in their first season back (1962), Leeds had almost done likewise (1965) and Liverpool had done it at the second attempt (1964) – they had found their feet by the end of 1966/67 and only lost four of the last 17 games.

Fired up by local rivalry – Paddy Crerand had bet Allison £10 that after United's title win City would never again get crowds of 30,000 – City started the season confidently and were above United when the neighbours popped round in September.

Colin Bell opened the scoring after five minutes, but two Bobby Charlton goals kept the home fans quiet, bar a brief rally when Stan Bowles and Brian Kidd had a punch-up.

22. Bestie 'n' Buzzer

10 Oct 1967: Best and Manchester City's Mike Summerbee outside their Manchester boutique Edwardia.

Although their teams were rivals on the pitch, Best and Summerbee got on well off the pitch.

The City right-winger, known as Buzzer to his team-mates, was a practical joker always looking for fun – and developed a firm friendship with Best, equally happy to find entertainment to fill the hours.

23. White hot Lane

3 Feb 1968: Best shoots for goal at Tottenham. You can't blame him – he was in sparkling scoring form, and his goal in the 2-1 win at White Hart Lane was his sixth in five games.

After a 26-game run featuring 17 wins and just two losses, United were top by three points from Leeds, with Man City back in fourth behind Liverpool and six points – three wins – off the pace. 

However, United's form suffered as the European Cup came back into view.

Matt Busby's side had beaten Hibernians of Malta and FK Sarajevo in the autumn, but the end of February brought a potentially tricky quarter-final with Polish side Gornik Zabrze, and after White Hart Lane United would lose three of their next four league games, while four straight wins for free-scoring City - by now had completed their own Holy Trinity by adding Bolton forward Franny Lee to Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell - took Joe Mercer's side top on goal average.   

24. Title fighters

27 Mar 1968: Best takes on Manchester City at Old Trafford. In mid-March United saw off Gornik Zabrze by protecting their 2-0 lead from the him first leg with a nervy 1-0 loss in Poland. Through to the European Cup semi-finals, they had six weeks to square off against their title rivals. 
As soon as they hit top spot, Man City lost at Leeds, who replaced them atop the league; with United and Liverpool also winning, that left four teams within two points of each other ahead of a crucial midweek Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
United took the lead when Best seized on a sloppy back pass by City skipper Tony Book, but Colin Bell equalised. Shortly after half time, centre-back George Heslop nodded City in front and with United chasing the game, Bell broke clear, was brought down and Franny Lee's spot-kick completed a 3-1 win. 
City then lost at Leicester, but United also lost at home to Liverpool - Best again scoring United's only goal - as Busby's men got what they least wanted during a European Cup campaign: a four-way title fight with their three most passionate rivals, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester City.

25. Futuristic at Fulham

Apr 12, 1968: United at Craven Cottage. It has been noted that fashions often lag behind the decades they're associated with, partly because it takes a while for mass-market penetration of new styles. But somehow Best looks to be from a different era to everyone else in this image - whether it's Fulham in their Fifties kit (and Edwardian pavilion) or respectably balding team-mate Bobby Charlton.

Easter meant a double-header on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, on this occasion to be followed by another fixture before the following Saturday's game. Going into this sprint of four league games in nine days, the Uniteds of Leeds and Manchester were two points clear of Liverpool and Manchester City; Liverpool took four points from the eight available, City five, Leeds six and the Red Devils seven, starting by dismissing Fulham 4-0. 
Best scored four goals in the four games, after which Busby's men were a point clear of Leeds and four clear of City, having played a game more than either. They had done what they could, and turned their attention to a midweek European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid.