On his 14th birthday, David Beckham celebrated with family in a corporate box at Old Trafford. Although born in Leytonstone, East London - he was raised a keen Manchester United supporter, so for a young Beckham – the chance to watch the Red Devils play was a dream come true.
Except on this Birthday, he was in the company of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, who was impressed with Beckham’s performances for his local Tottenham youth sides and persuaded him to join Manchester United’s schoolboys.
It wasn’t a difficult decision for Beckham to make. He would impress in the youth set up alongside the likes of future United stars, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary & Phil Neville. That all-conquering ‘class of ‘92’ would win the 1992 FA Youth Cup and lay the foundations for the success that United would have in the 15 years to follow.
After spending an edifying loan spell at Third Division, Preston, a 19-year-old Beckham made his Premier League bow on the 2nd April 1995. The following season saw the likes of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis move on, as Sir Alex Ferguson was ready to place his trust in the likes of Beckham and the other members of the ‘class of 92’.
It didn’t go swimmingly for Beckham & co at the start of 1995/96 season – he may have scored in the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, but there were concerns that the side wasn’t equipped to deal with the rigours of Premier League competition.
So much so that it provoked the former Liverpool defender, Alan Hansen into quipping his famous line “you don’t win anything with kids”. How wrong the Scot turned out to be, as Beckham’s United side were able to overturn a 10 point deficit to leaders Newcastle United and go on to win the Premier League.
The late ’90s saw Beckham establish himself as one of the finest right-sided midfielders in the Premier League if not Europe. There were many moments of majesty, from his halfway line goal against Wimbledon in 1996 to his two assists in the dramatic win in the Champions League final in 1999, helping United to the treble.
The ensuing years at United brought a further three Premier League titles with Beckham proving vital in the midfield. The 2001/02 season produced his best in the trademark 7 jersey – he was able to score 16 goals in all competitions which would remain the best goal-scoring season of his career.
His fame on the pitch had been further increased off it through his A-List relationship with Victoria (Posh Spice) from ‘The Spice Girls’. The couple fast became a brand – synonymous with fame, fashion and celebrity culture. Ever since their marriage in 1999, ‘Brand Beckham’s’ star was beginning to cast a long shadow on Manchester United and to a greater extent, Sir Alex Ferguson.
After being knocked out of the FA Cup by fierce rivals Arsenal in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham would have one of the most infamous bust-ups in Premier League history.
When recounting the confrontation in My Autobiography, the Scot said “He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye. Of course, he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him.”
Ferguson was clearly a manager who would not have his authority questioned and so as he had done with Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis in 1995, it was time for Beckham to leave Old Trafford.
After moving to Real Madrid in 2003, Beckham would go on to play for LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain before calling time on his career in 2013, some 21 years since he first turned out for his boyhood Manchester United in the 1992 FA Youth Cup.
Time is often quick to forget the quality David Beckham possessed in the Premier League, be it the trademark free-kicks, long-range passes or rasping strikes – the boy from Leytonstone still remains one of the Premier League’s greats, who undoubtedly played his best football in the no.7 jersey of Manchester United.