David Beckham has said that he has made mistakes during his time at Manchester United which has led to a breakdown in relations with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Beckham progressed from youth to Old Trafford, but it was sold by Ferguson to Real Madrid in 2003. Beckham accepts that his celebrity status and marriage to Victoria, the former Spice Girl, Ferguson has given him reason to doubt his professionalism.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, Beckham said: “At the age of 41 I’d like to think that I am older and a little wiser than when I was 21 years old. There are a few decisions that I made then that were wrong and I can understand why the manager has so frustrated.
“There was a time, when Victoria was in Ireland. I had a day off and are flown in Ireland. I do not feel I need to tell the manager what I was doing. As I was coming back at 6 in the morning for training, I was sitting in the living room and the manager walked in. He does not talk to me. I knew that it was a bit of a problem.
“I can understand the manager, and then, thinking, ‘OK, it’s not to the care of his body,’ or ‘is not of the rest, as you must do’. All the manager ever wanted was the best for the team, the better for the club and the best for the individual.”
Beckham and Ferguson more public fallout came in February 2003 when, after a defeat by Arsenal, Ferguson kicked a boot at Beckham, which left him with a cut above the eye. Beckham described it as a “freak accident”, adding: “he would never do it again, because I have seen it in training.”
However, it was Beckham’s manager-who provided much-needed reassurance in the wake of his expulsion during the England World Cup last-16 defeat against Argentina in 1998. “The first person to call me after the game was Ferguson,” said the former England captain. “He said, “Son, go back to Manchester, you’ll be fine.’ And that gave me the strength to get through probably the toughest time in my life.
“My wife had told me that we were expecting our first child and so it should be a happy time, but it wasn’t. I look back and it was a difficult time, not only for me, because I knew that once back in Manchester, I was protected.
“I had the support of the fans who, every time I walked up to take a corner the whole stadium stood up and cheered and chanted my name. I get excited talking about it. But it was more difficult for my grandparents, who were in the course of the door rose from the journalists, who were saying things I don’t want my grandparents to hear their grandchild. The only thing I could do to protect my family was to say not to open the door to these people”.
Beckham was part of the famous “Class of 92” at United, alongside the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt. “At the time we never really felt as if there was something so special,” he said. “We had a very difficult time, youth team manager, Eric Harrison, who has kept us all in place, and then, of course, we had Ferguson. We all had jobs. I cleaned out eight of the first team players boots, Nicky Butt clean, the showers, Paul Scholes, clean the toilets and the changing rooms.
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“Gary and Phil Neville would be picking up the dirty kit, but at the moment the class of ‘ 92, don’t think about anything other than trying to keep our place in the team and win the youth cup, if we could.”
Asked about the current child sexual abuse scandal, he said: “There has never been anything with Manchester United and it is shameful what has happened, but there must be something done about it.”
Beckham disc choices included Every Time We Say Goodbye by Ella Fitzgerald, I Am the Resurrection by the Stone Roses, and Si Tu Vois Ma Mère by Sidney Bechet. His England caps were her luxury item and her book was the cookbook Mallmann on Fire, Francis Mallmann.