As David Beckham returns to Old Trafford after seven years, A Different League looks back at the top ten highlights of the former Manchester United star’s career.
1. The 1992 FA Youth Cup
David Beckham emerged in the early 1990’s as one of Manchester United’s most promising talents along with fellow youngsters Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Beckham was still a starry eyed youngster aspiring to be one of his heroes like Bryan Robson, gracing the Old Trafford turf. Young Beckham became a key component in helping the United’s youth win the FA Youth Cup as he scored in the second leg against Crystal Palace. The Red Devil’s ‘Class of ‘92’ blossomed into the most successful team of the 1990’s and Beckham would be part of arguably the finest midfield of the decade.
2. Goal against Galatasaray, 1994/95
Beckham’s career rose rapidly after the Youth Cup and he made his much awaited Champions League debut against Turkish outfit Galatasaray SK, starting alongside Denis Irwin, Eric Cantona and Brian McClair. It was a glorious start to a European career on a bitter night in December for the young right winger as he scored in the group stages. The goal signified Beckham’s ability to deliver on the European stage although the score line was slightly nullified by the fact that United failed to qualify from the group. In a rare interview from 1994, the aspiring England international was beaming.
3. Out on loan at Preston North End
After a fine start at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson loaned 19 year old Beckham out to Preston North End for a month in 1994/95. One of “Fergie’s Fledglings”, Becks found himself showcasing his talents in the old Third Division. He made five appearances for the Lancashire side scoring twice, memorably netting from a corner kick against Doncaster which endeared him to the Deepdale faithful. He stated in his autobiography that his time there was crucial in his growth as a player and is always swift to mention Preston North End in the same breath as Manchester United and Real Madrid.
4. The goal from the halfway line vs. Wimbledon
It was the inaugural day of the 1996/97 season, a warm August afternoon when David Beckham went from up and coming United player to the Premiership’s new superstar as he eyed keeper Neil Sullivan off his line and targeted the dead centre of the net to send the red section of Selhurst Park into elation. The technique with which the shot was hit was to become Beckham’s trademark, the goal was the first milestone of many big swingers of his famous right foot. Brylcreem and big contracts came calling, after this it was no longer ‘David’, it was simply ‘Beckham’.
5. Man United and the treble
Arguably the most distinguished point in Beckham’s career came in 1999 – he became an integral part of Manchester United making history and winning the treble. The majority of United’s goals were gifted from Beckham’s precise right wing crosses. His astonishing ability for pin point accuracy with crosses and dead balls became the template for winning matches. He featured in the FA Cup final, the crucial league encounter against Tottenham where he equalized and won the then known, Premiership. The Champions League final was won with both goals assisted by Beckham, the young man was fitting into the number 7 shirt nicely.
6. France ’98 and Simeone
The 1998 World Cup was the turning point of David Beckham’s life and career, in a last 16 match against rivals Argentina, Beckham retaliated to a foul by Diego Simeone while on the floor, raising his leg to trip the Argentine and receiving a red card. England were knocked out of the competition by Argentina resulting in torrents of hatred towards Beckham, effigies, letters and inexorable abuse from fans. Beckham became more reclusive, looking to become a more mature player, changing his image into someone who would eventually wear the armband for his country and redeem himself four years later.
7. Leaving United and falling out with Fergie
2003 saw Man United win their fifteenth league title – Beckham was at his peak, having already won the treble, numerous Premiership trophies, charity shields and personal accolades. As the relationship between himself and Sir Alex Ferguson began to strain, a FA Cup defeat to Arsenal was a catalyst for an altercation between master and prot