Beckham: United fans got me through World Cup hell

Friday 17 June 2022 07:00

Former Red David Beckham has praised Manchester United’s supporters for helping him get through the toughest period of his career.

The iconic footballer stars in the latest episode of Gary Neville’s acclaimed interview show The Overlap, where the pair talk about Becks’ international career at length.
 
David went on to captain his country, earning 115 caps, which makes him England’s third-highest appearance-maker.
 
But before he became a national idol, there were dark days: namely his sending-off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

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In the interview, Beckham recalls the massive abuse he got from the press and opposition fans throughout the subsequent months, and admits that Sir Alex Ferguson’s help and the backing of the Red Army got him through the ordeal.
 
“The morning after, he [Sir Alex] phoned me early morning and said: ‘Are you okay, son?’ I said, 'Yeah', and I think I got emotional to him, believe it or not!
 
“The gaffer called me and said: 'Don't worry about it. Go away for a few weeks, come back to the club. You've got us.'

“That was all I needed to hear.
“I remember getting back [from the World Cup] and walking through the airport and being absolutely abused by this one TV reporter at the time, saying how I'd let my parents down, my grandparents down. This was at Heathrow when we landed. Then I went to New York to see Victoria [Beckham, wife].
 
“Every game that [following] season, apart from obviously every time we played at Old Trafford, was horrendous. 
 
“Every talk show, everywhere I went, every time I put petrol into my car, I was getting abused. Whether it was in Manchester, whether it was in London, it didn't matter. 
 
“But I think the thing that got me through that particular season was the United fans.”
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United’s first home game of the 1998/99 season was a Champions League qualifier against LKS Lodz, and Beckham says the crowd's very pronounced support meant everything to him.
 
“That first game – I was nervous anyway, because I didn't know what the reaction was going to be – but that first corner, I walked over with the ball, and I looked up and the whole stand just rose. 
 
“That's how I got through that season.”

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“When I look back at my career and I talk about regrets, I wish that [the red card] would never have happened,” he continued. 
 
“But I then look at the flipside. If it hadn't happened, I might not have had the career that I had. I might not have been as strong as I was after that time to get through some of the stuff that I went through throughout my career. 
 
“So I turned it into a positive, but it was one of those moments. Of course you never want that to happen in a game.”
 
Thankfully for Beckham and his adoring United supporters, there was a positive end to the story. The team went on to lift an unprecedented Treble at the end of the 1998/99 season, while David finished second in the Ballon d’Or vote.

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