London - Manchester United and England great Bobby Charlton underwent minor surgery on Monday that prevented him from receiving a lifetime achievement honour at the Laureus Sports Awards ceremony.
The 74-year-old Charlton, who won the 1966 World Cup with England and the European Cup two years later with Manchester United, fell ill on Sunday and returned to Manchester on Monday for unspecified minor surgery, Laureus said.
Alex Ferguson accepted the award on his behalf, 54 years to the day after Charlton survived the Munich air disaster that killed eight members of his Manchester United team.
"Sir Bobby is fine, but it was felt he should go back to Manchester - he is very annoyed not to be here to receive this award," Ferguson said at the ceremony in London. "It was already a very emotional night for Bobby. This is the 54th anniversary of the Munich air disaster when we lost eight of our young players. Through that time, Bobby has kept his fantastic humility and that makes him very special to me.
"Manchester United is Bobby's life. He came to the club as a 15-year-old boy and he's been with us ever since."
Charlton played a key role in hiring Ferguson as United manager in 1986.
"Bobby has supported every step I've taken," Ferguson said. "At the beginning they were very small steps, later they became big steps. But without his support I don't know where I'd have been. That's why I'm here to honour this great man. He's very special."
Charlton is one of the 47 sports stars who make up the Laureus sports academy.