Beckham’s decision could’ve quite easily come five seasons ago for all that he’s achieved since he left Real Madrid as despite making lots of yankee dollars with LA Galaxy,he’s more or less been reduced to loan spell cameos with the fringes of European royalty rather than being integral to the Elite’s successes as he was in his heyday. Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh as Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan are world-famous top sides, but seeing Beck’s appear for them for only a few months at a time and not always a starter hardly seems fitting to such a talent. As soon as Beckham decided to sign for LA Galaxy, he’d more or less given a statement that his time at the top of the football ladder was over and he was happy to earn money and even more fame- in the one place it had eluded him rather than increase his trophy collection.
Since Beckham left United in the Summer of 2003 after helping the club to it’s sixth title in eight years, he’s been held in fairly high regard by the vast majority of Reds although there’s always been something of a debate as to the nature of his departure: could he, should he have stayed? The final season for Beckham was something of a mixed one as rumours of a fall out with Sir Alex Ferguson reared their ugly head not to mention “boot-gate” coupled with being dropped for the biggest game of the season against Real Madrid, almost overshadowed the positives. Beckham still managed to bag eleven goals in all competitions -including two against Madrid after coming on as sub- and contribute nine assists in the league alone as the Reds regained the title they’d lost to the Gunners the previous season. Looking back at that final season, it’s easy to see why Beckham left, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t approve of his lifestyle which rather than being one of getting drunk, gambling and messing about with women seemed to be more about being a family man and promoting his growing brand. Beckham on the other hand, felt the distance between himself and Sir Alex and despite being a huge United fan, took the chance to join Madrid when it became obvious he wasn’t wanted at Old Trafford.
It’s easy for Reds to be miffed with the way he left, after all despite all the giltz and glamour there was something a tad unsavoury about Real Madrid’s ‘Galaticos’ the way the club seemed able to just buy the best players from around Europe regardless of cost. Also there was the tiresome sight of “Posh & Becks” as an ubiquitous media entity that seemed to infiltrate all walks of life, fashion, sport, television, advertising, etc.
Let’s be completely honest though, Sir Alex Ferguson obviously doesn’t want you at the club, he criticises your wife to you for “gallivanting around town” when you son is sick and he even kicks a boot in your face- regardless of whether he meant it, what do you do? Refuse to leave and spend more time playing second fiddle to whoever he decides to pick ahead of you? Or do you depart for a new life abroad? Many of us may say we’d stay but we don’t know how difficult a time at United can be when you’re no longer loved by the manager.
There’s always been something very ‘Manchester United’ about Beckham, not just his obvious love of the club and the fact he’s never entertained the idea of joining another English club for that very reason, but the way his career with the Reds progressed. United have a large fan base from outside Manchester and Beckham was part of that, United have always been hated by many in the media and fans of other clubs, even ones that aren’t really our rivals, again Beckham was at a time a part of that too. His treatment during and after the 1998 World Cup was nothing short of a disgrace, by his manager Glenn Hoddle, the media and rival fans. Hoddle not only dropped him without a valid reason but then made one up about him “not being focused on the tournament” before forcing him to do a press conference explaining how he felt about not starting the opening game- which became the opening two games. Beckham of course would be harshly sent off for kicking out at Diego Simeone in the second round. The response to Beckham’s sending off by the media and rival fans was ridiculous, newspapers printed dartboards with his face on, while fans hung effigies of him from lamposts. The entire nation being against you is something United fans can relate to only too well.
Beckham of course would enjoy his most successful season in the wake of such hatred, lifting the treble as an integral part in United’s annus mirabilis.
It would take a few years for Beckham’s England redemption to occur but it would finally happen on the Old Trafford pitch no less, where he’d always been loved, as he grabbed a last minute free kick against the mighty Greece to secure the national sides passage to the World Cup where his Argentine demons would be vanquished with another set-piece.
The level of vitriol aimed at Beckham in his dark days, made almost all Reds passionately rally round him, while his part in our success made us genuinely adore him. The fall from favour was never truly complete as Beckham’s conduct since leaving the club has been that of a fan watching from afar, making all the right noises and never hiding his true affection for the his boyhood side.
Looking back at the games I saw Beckham play, one overriding memory stays with me, it isn’t the amazing goals, or the six titles in eight seasons, nor is it even the treble, or the unreal crosses, it’s the effort he put in, the sheer determination he exuded for the cause. It’s actually unmentioned by many reviewing Beckham’s time in a Red shirt, but much like Ryan Giggs Becks’ fought for every ball and chased every lost cause, putting in shift after shift regardless of the ‘outside influences’ that saw him incur his manager’s ire.
Beckham may have got caught up in the advertising, brand nonsense a bit too much for everyone’s liking, he may have left a bit too early for others, but I’ll always have nothing but adulation for the man who was every bit as Red as I am and contributed so much to success of the club we all love.
For more Red notions follow me on twitter @RFFH