So David Beckham wishes he had never left Manchester United. How the side could do with David Beckham’s never-say-die attitude now. The humiliating loss to Leeds United at the weekend summed up a season in which the Reds have not only been defeated eight times but seem to have lost the spirit of the past.
“Manchester United is so special to me and I’ve never been back as a player – it’s an experience I want to cherish,” Beckham said ahead of United’s Champions League last 16 clash with AC Milan in February and March.
Beckham left United during the summer of 2003 in a £25 million move to Real Madrid. While the breakdown in the relationship between manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his right-winger was causal to the split, many supporters felt that the player had wantonly sought new pastures. It earned the player the nickname Liar23 – not one that went down well with all fans.
“It’s going to be such a special and emotional night,” added Beckham.
“I’d have loved to have stayed at United for my whole career and never gone anywhere else but it just wasn’t meant to be. I went to Real Madrid and in the last year we were successful so I enjoyed that time, but I would like to have stayed at United.”
Beckham’s ‘class of ’92’ team-mates Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville remain at the club and the LA Galaxy player is looking forward to taking on the United legends. Of the trio, only a ring-rusty Neville started against Leeds at the weekend as their careers wind down.
“I am sure they will all try and kick me if they can because we were together for so many years and we were so successful together,” Beckham said.
“Off the field we became best friends and that’s why we became so successful at a club like United.
“But it’s testament to themselves and the club and everything that surrounds them as individuals that they wouldn’t be at a club like United if they weren’t special people and special players.”
While, at 34, Beckham would also be in the twilight of a United career had the midfielder stayed, somehow it’s doubtful whether he would have so tamely surrendered as Darron Gibson did on Sunday. After all, modern footballers, so rich far too young, lack the hunger of even Beckham’s generation, let alone their generational predecessors.
Beckham is unlikely to start for Milan against United, although there is a suggestion that he may take up an emergency defensive role. Bet on Becks to fight for every ball, header and tackle as he always has. Say what you will about Beckham but the player has always had a big heart.
That much cannot be said for the United team that took to the field on Sunday. While Ferguson must have been in two minds about team selection – choosing a team made up of youth, first team and ring-rusty players – the blame for the Leeds defeat lies squarely at the players’ door.
Coming to the end of his career or not, Beckham would have been an asset.