Sir Alex Ferguson is damning in his verdict of David Beckham, accusing the former England captain of giving up the chance of a being a top-level footballer and, in his last few years at Manchester United, openly disobeying his manager.
Over an 11-page chapter in Ferguson’s autobiography dedicated to Beckham, Ferguson accuses his former player of thinking “he was bigger than Sir Alex Ferguson”. He writes: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s Alex Ferguson or Pete the Plumber. The name of the manager is irrelevant. The authority is what counts ... that was the death knell for him.”
Later, in his press conference, when asked about the influences that changed Beckham, Ferguson said: “The big problem for me ... he fell in love with Victoria and that changed everything."
In the book, Ferguson recalls one episode when he turned up at the club’s Carrington training ground to encounter a large group of photographers outside. When he asks his staff what they are there for he is told that there is a rumour that Beckham has a new haircut. Following that, he said Beckham refused to remove a hat he was wearing at a team dinner, despite his manager insisting on it.
The following day as the players went out to warm-up for a game away to Leicester City, Ferguson said that he discovered Beckham was preparing to go out with the beanie hat still on his head. He insisted that Beckham removed it – the player had shaved his head – and said that the player “went berserk”.
Ferguson writes: “The plan was that he would keep the beanie hat on and take it off just before kick-off. At that time I was starting to despair of him. I could see him being swallowed up by the media or publicity agents.”
What might be most difficult for Beckham to accept will be Ferguson’s overall assessment that he “lost the chance to become an absolute top-dog player.” He writes: “after the change [in Beckham] he never attained the level where you would say: that is an absolute top player.”
Later he adds, “His [Beckham’s] eye was off the ball. A shame because he could still have been at Manchester United when I left. He would have been one of the greatest Man United legends.”