“It was almost this parental thing.”
Gary Neville has opened up on the relationship between David Beckham and Alex Ferguson during the latter years of the midfielder’s time at the club which culminated in a huge move to Real Madrid.
Neville, along with Beckham, his brother Phil, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were a part of the famous ‘Class of 92’ who won the FA Youth Cup that year before becoming the backbone of the senior side for the rest of the decade and through to early parts of the 2000s.
There have been numerous anecdotes and autobiography snippets of the relationship between Ferguson and Beckham with much of it revolving around that famous incident in 2003 when Beckham was struck on the face by a boot kicked by Ferguson in the dressing room.
The incident occurred immediately after United’s FA Cup exit at the hands of bitter rivals Arsenal.
Gary Neville on David Beckham and Alex Ferguson: “It was almost this parental thing…”
Neville, who was speaking to Off The Ball, doesn’t mention the boot kicking incident but rather how Ferguson would get annoyed and frustrated with how Beckham carried himself and how he perceived him to be going “rogue”.
“He was tweaking the tail of the tiger,” Neville told Off The Ball. “You knew that if he wore something or his hair was slightly different, or wore a cap in the team meeting (something would happen).
“The real problem that the boss had was that it was one of the young lads. Cantona, Yorke or Teddy might do similar but that was OK because they had been brought into the club. But he had known Becks since he was 13.
“It was almost this parental thing, like he was going rogue. He wasn’t. Becks was the most hard-working, disciplined, professional who loved the club.
“He was obsessed with football, but he wanted to do something outside of football.
“There was just a clash down to the fact that the boss saw him as ‘his boy’ that he had in the changing room from 13. When he is 23 or 24, he had grown up.
“It worked out for them both in the end, but there was enormous respect between them both.”
As Neville mentions, the move to Real Madrid worked out for both parties. United would go on to enjoy more success during that decade and Beckham would lift the La Liga title with the Spanish club in the 2006/2007 season before securing a lucrative move to LA Galaxy.