Sir Bobby Charlton has explained how he and Bill Shankly became extremely close friends after the two icons of British football first crossed paths accidentally on a deserted car park in Manchester.

Charlton established himself at Manchester United and lifted the World Cup with England during almost exactly the same period that Shankly was guiding the Reds to unprecedented success.

The link between the pair continued when Charlton represented Preston North End as a player and manager; the club for whom Shankly had dedicated the vast majority of his own professional career.

A relationship grew between the two men off the pitch following two unexpected encounters and, in the week of the 100th anniversary of Shankly's birth, Charlton has eulogised about his old friend.

He told Liverpoolfc.com: "I'd seen Bill Shankly obviously when Liverpool were on the television, but it took quite a while before I actually bumped into him.

"It happened to be on the car park near where the statues are now at Old Trafford. He had parked his car, which you could do then. He parked his car and he got out and said: 'Come in, sit down here'.

"He just regaled me on everything good about Liverpool, he never talked about anything else but Liverpool. I'd never met him before. He said: 'Anyway, thanks very much, Bob' and off he went.

"Later on, when the World Cup was over, the Brazilians had stopped at a hotel just round the corner from where I live. I don't know why, but Bill Shankly must have thought to use the hotel.

"He did and somebody must have told him that Bobby Charlton lived just round the corner from the hotel. One morning, my mother-in-law - who lived with us - knocked on the bedroom door.

"She said: 'Bob, you have to get up - there's an intruder. He keeps looking in the window.' When I looked out, it was Bill Shankly.

"It was a Saturday; they were going to play at City, we were going to play at Everton. I said to Norma: 'You better get up, Bill Shankly is at the door'.

"She got up, went down and we had a cup of tea. We listened - because you always had to listen to Bill Shankly - and it was just such an event.

"He must have enjoyed it as well because Norma isn't what you would call a football sage - she likes the game - but she listened carefully to him.

"He then started to come to our house on a regular basis. If I was away, he would have somebody to talk to. Norma would have thought the world of him, and I thought the world of him as well."

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Having taken the reins at Anfield in 1959 with the club languishing in the Second Division, Shankly oversaw the Reds' rise to dominance before announcing his retirement 15 years later.

Charlton insisted that he has yet to meet a man more in love with the game of football, although played down suggestions that the legendary Scot tried to bring the midfielder to Liverpool.

The 75-year-old said: "He was a magical player and a better coach and manager of men.

"To get into a fiery situation like you got at Anfield, he was unique. He used it all, he used the opportunity to engage the crowd and all the things that away teams didn't like.

"He just loved the game; I don't know anybody, in my whole life, that I thought loved the game better than Bill Shankly. He was just sensational.

"Of course, he got the players to play well, they got into Europe, then they won the European Cup - they probably wouldn't have done it without him.

"You daren't fall foul of him. If you had a chance at goal, you had to pay the price if you wasted it. He was just magic.

"If you were on the opposing side, he would congratulate you if you played well, absolutely. He was a very fair man. If you played well, he always used to tell you.

"I played in a couple of testimonial matches - Celtic came down for a match and they asked me to play. I played for Celtic in a testimonial for one of their players at Anfield.

"Bill Shankly had a long chat with me afterwards. He didn't ask me to sign for them but he congratulated me. By then I was about 34 or 35, I considered I was nearing the end. He just wanted to talk about the game.

"I don't know whether he did all this to every player at Liverpool, but he certainly dropped them all when he started talking to me and my wife. He was a fantastic man.

"We used to have quite a few chats; when there was just the two of us he would call round and say hello. He was a wonderful football man, that's all I can say."