United's old hero watches Cup final the Best way

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The Independent Online
As Manchester United's Premier League heroes walk onto the turf at Wembley today, one of the club's greatest names from the past will not be there to watch them. Rather characteristically, the most likely place to find George Best will be in his local pub.

The last time that Best - the mercurial Ulsterman whose raw ability thrilled a generation - went to Wembley, he was mobbed by enthusiastic fans and ended up watching the match in a nearby hotel room. It is an experience that he does not want to repeat.

As United take on Liverpool today in an attempt to win the double, the Championship and the FA Cup, Mr Best will probably be watching in the pub in Chelsea, south-west London, where he is a familiar figure. He said: "It will be full of Chelsea fans so I can rub it in."

More than 400 Manchester United and Liverpool fans will not get to watch the match either. When they turn up at Wembley today they will find that the tickets for which they have paid up to pounds 500 each on the black market are stolen. Paul Sergeant, director of Wembley Stadium, said: "Every FA Cup final ticket is recorded somewhere in the system. We know exactly which tickets were stolen and anyone coming in with one of those will definitely be stopped and probably arrested as well."

Touts have been selling stolen or forged tickets for up to pounds 1,000 a pair, according to Andy Mitton, the editor of the United We Stand magazine.

A big security operation to ensure the London final, attended by a capacity crowd of 80,000, passes off peacefully began yesterday, as the first fans began to make their way down from the north-west.

Bookmakers say that this year's final will attract record bets, and both teams are quoted at 13-8 to win in normal time, making it the closest final ever.

Trevor Phillips, a senior Football Association official who resigned as an investigation began into alleged illegal ticket sales for the Euro 96 football championships yesterday denied any wrongdoing. "I am sure that I have done nothing to be ashamed of," he said.