Mirror Football takes a look back at the iconic, rollercoaster career of Manchester United and England icon David Beckham, including his infamous bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson
When it comes to English football, few have left their mark in the way that David Beckham has.
The Manchester United and England icon – who turns 47 today – went on to enjoy an illustrious career after making his senior debut for United as a 17-year-old against Brighton in the League Cup. Beckham went on to rack up over 390 appearances for United, winning a host of accolades before was lured away by the glamour of Real Madrid.
Beckham’s cultured right foot made went on to make headlines in Madrid, Los Angeles, Milan and Paris before he hung up his golden boots in 2013. Since then, Beckham has gone one further by starting up his own soccer franchise in Miami – a deal that was set in place back when he became the biggest star in history to join the MLS.
But Miami is a world away from his humble beginnings in Manchester. In fact, Beckham probably wasn’t even the standout in the crop of fledgling young stars that went on to be affectionately dubbed ‘The Class of 92’. Alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, Beckham worked his way through the ranks at Old Trafford and went on to play a crucial role in the United team that became synonymous with success at the turn of the Millennium.
Beckham racked up over 50 appearances during United’s historic treble-winning season back in the 1998/99 campaign. Sir Alex Ferguson’s omnipotent side surged to glory both domestically and in Europe; with their iconic, last-gasp triumph in the Champions League the perfect follow-up to their success in both the FA Cup and the Premier League.
For Beckham, his role in United’s monumental season was the perfect tonic for his international woes after his infamous red card against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Vilified and abused by the British public, Beckham’s silent renaissance both started and concluded at Old Trafford in 2001.
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After his ill-judged kick towards Diego Simeone, Beckham had managed to rebuild his reputation with both United and England. But his true redemption came in the crunch World Cup qualifier against Greece almost three years on from his outburst in France. England’s World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread with just seconds remaining at Old Trafford; the nation was in desperate need of a hero. Beckham duly obliged to put the ghosts of France behind him once and for all, booking England’s spot at the 2002 World Cup with a stunning, inch-perfect 30-yard free-kick.
That goal ensured Beckham went from hero to zero, but his euphoria was short-lived. The season after England’s World Cup exploits in South Korea and Japan, Beckham became embroiled in a bitter bust-up with Ferguson; a feud that would bring his Old Trafford career to a premature end.
Tension reached a boiling part after a defeat to Arsenal in January, when Beckham was cut open by a stray boot that had been blasted – accidentally – towards him by an irate Ferguson. Although both have insisted that the matter was put to bed soon after, Beckham’s former team-mate, Mikael Silvestre, admitted that their relationship was never the same after the clash and that it one “probably” one of the main reasons for Beckham’s exit at the end of the season.
Silvestre told FourFourTwo : “I was there. Everyone was shocked, but things like this happen in dressing rooms. It was a random kick by the boss – it was just unfortunate that the boot went straight into Beckham’s face. He was very angry and we had to intervene to prevent a confrontation. But that was the end of it then. Still, it impacted their relationship, and was probably among the reasons why David left that summer and signed for Real Madrid.”
Beckham moved to the Bernabeu in a £25million deal in the summer of 2003, but he struggled to emulate the success he achieved at United. And while he went onto win the La Liga title in 2007, further success eluded him during his four-year spell in Madrid – just as it did on the international stage.
Unfortunately, Beckham is part of the crop of players that were dubbed as England’s ‘Golden Generation’. Beckham and co. failed to end the nations agonising wait for glory. As captain, Beckham more often than not carried the can. And his international career was ended in the most brutal fashion by then-England chief Fabio Capello – who publicly scotched talk of Beckham featuring again on television without giving his former skipper the heads up.
Ahead of qualifiers for Euro 2012, Capello said: “I think David knows he has no future with the international team because we have to change. I’m sure someone will have phoned him now. We tried to speak to him but we couldn’t. I will speak to him soon.”
The blow came just months after Beckham was cruelly denied a spot on the plane to the 2010 World Cup due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. It was an ignominious end for one of England’s greatest performers, with Beckham racking up his 115th and final cap during a World Cup qualifying win over Belarus back in October 2009.
Shortly after, Beckham bid an emotional farewell to football at a domestic level, too. After his ground-breaking move to LA Galaxy, Beckham enjoyed a brief stint with AC Milan, before finishing his iconic career with a tear-jerking curtain call in Paris during a fleeting spell with Paris Saint-Germain. In total, Beckham played more than 800 senior games; cementing his spot in history as one of England’s finest sportsman.
Although the man affectionately dubbed ‘Goldenballs’ by the British press has been retired ever since, he’s remained in both football and the public eye. To this day, Beckham remains one of sports most recognisable superstars, and the Beckham brand is still thriving.
After bringing down the curtain on his storied 21-year playing career, it came as little surprise to anyone when Beckham rekindled his love affair with the beautiful game by announcing the Inter Miami franchise in January 2015; bringing an end to a gruelling four-year journey to make Beckham’s dreams a reality.
Beckham’s team played their first ever game in March 2020, losing to Los Angeles FC. Unfortunately, Miami haven’t fared much better since. But with plans for a stunning new stadium on the horizon, the future is bright for both Inter Miami and brand Beckham.