Back in the summer of 2003, something massive went off at Manchester United when free-kick magnifico David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid for £25 million. It was a moment of devastation for many as they idolised Beckham and wanted to see so much more from him in a United shirt. However, that was never something that happened.
After a big bust up between Beckham and United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, which saw the right midfielder require stitches after losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup, it was stated that Ferguson kicked a football boot and it hit the player above the eye, requiring treatment. Tensions seemed to be high, resulting in the early departure of the player.
In the years previous, many high-profile players has been forced through the Old Trafford exit by the manager, including Jaap Stam and Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane was set to follow a year later. It was a ruthless streak that Ferguson had and seemed to thrive on. Ryan Giggs, a fellow class of 92 graduate and teammate, talking about Beckham’s exit, said:
“I think the majority of the time it was for football reasons. It was to get someone in or the player maybe losing that influence. Or it was just the time.
“The likes of David Beckham it was getting too much, where he was arguing every other week really and it was just time for both parties to move and that happened on a few occasions.”
It was something that had been bubbling away in the background for some time during Beckham’s final season at United with many run-ins with the manager. Beckham played 394 times for United, scoring 85 goals and winning many major honours, including; the FA Youth Cup, six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one UEFA Champions League.
After leaving United for Madrid, the England international made 155 appearances for the club, scoring 20 goals and won the Supercopa de España in his first season and one La Liga title in his final season before departing Europe for the United States of America with MLS side LA Galaxy. He made 118 appearances, scoring 20 goals in the USA with loan spells to AC Milan during two winter periods.
Beckham won the MLS Cup twice, including three Western Conference (Regular Season) plus three Western Conference (Playoffs) and Supporters’ Shields at the club – winning the league inn three different countries and two continents. In January 2013, Beckham signed for Paris Saint-Germain, ending his career at the club, winning Ligue 1 there.
During 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson wrote about Beckham in his autobiography, putting light on the situation as to why Beckham was seemingly forced out of the club ten years earlier. Time would always tell what had happened as the player was not really interested in dishing the dirt on the problems. Ferguson wrote:
“In his final season with us, we were aware that David’s work rate was dropping and we had heard rumours of a flirtation between Real Madrid and David’s camp.
“The main issue was that his application level had dropped from its traditionally stratospheric level.”
Giggs, not one for dodging Ferguson’s fiery temperament, managed to avoid the Old Trafford exit, but did come close to parting company with the club at the time Beckham left, which would have been a shame and ended a career that was still very much in the period of success with so much more to achieve. Giggs said:
“Around 2003/2004 I didn’t have a great start to the season. It was the summer that David Beckham went, that was the probably the closest that I had got to going.
“My form wasn’t great, and it was the transition period where I’ve gone from flying winger to coming in a little bit more inside. I’d lost that pace. He [Ferguson] actually never really said it.
“I ended the season quite strong. If I hadn’t, who knows.”
Giggs retired at the end of the 2013/14 season at United, making a total of 963 appearances, scoring 168 goals for the club – having what was a very successful career – winning 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, nine FA Community Shields, the UEFA Champions League twice, one UEFA Super Cup, one Incontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.
If Beckham had kept his bust-ups with Ferguson to a minimum and continued to play for United, who knows that could have been achieved by the former England captain. However, if he had stayed at the club, perhaps the next big name to wear the famous number seven shirt, Cristiano Ronaldo, would not have arrived at the club. I guess everything happens for a reason.