Debate: Is Beckham now underrated?

Friday 17 June 2022 07:00

On the 19-year anniversary of his Manchester United exit, we are shining a light on David Beckham’s famous career and asking if the iconic no.7 is somehow underrated in the modern era?

That question may seem ridiculous to us Reds who saw him week in and week out, but it feels relevant at a time when his achievements are often overshadowed by off-the-pitch activity. 

Let's remind you of his key stats at United. Beckham made 394 appearances, registered 109 assists, scored 85 goals and won 11 trophies, including six Premier League titles and the Treble.

David went on to represent Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain at club level. Internationally, the former England captain also remains the third most-capped player in history. 

Yet in the conversation of all-time greats, or best XIs, Beckham is often overlooked and that is hard to understand why, particularly for his former team-mates who know him better than anyone. 


David May spoke passionately about Becks during Monday’s episode of The Debate, explaining his view that he was the best ball-playing midfielder in world football during the 1998/99 campaign.

“I do think he gets overlooked too often,” said Maysie. “I think when you look at his whole career and where he played, you don't play at those teams without being good. 

“I do think the likes of Ronaldo and Giggsy on the left-hand side are flair players, and I wouldn’t say Becks was a flair player, but as a dead-ball specialist and a crosser of the ball, for the likes of Ole, Coley, Yorkie and Teddy in 1999, I don't think there was anybody in world football who was better.”
Ben Thornley came through the Academy with Beckham and, as part of the Class of ’92, they famously won the FA Youth Cup together, before breaking into the senior squad at Old Trafford. 

Thornley is quick to highlight that David’s off-field activities never affected his love for football, declaring: “The celebrity side should not detract from what a committed footballer he was on and off the pitch. Fans didn’t see him in training sessions but he was the one who would stay out. 

“He would practise and practise and practise. For the lifestyle he did lead outside of football, nobody could ever question his commitment and I agree with Maysie that in the Treble season he should have been the World Player of the Year.”
All The Goals: David Beckham Video

All The Goals: David Beckham

Becks scored 85 goals during his legendary United career: you can watch them all here, in chronological order...

Newspaper journalist Neil Custis also appeared in Monday’s episode of The Debate and, as somebody who reported on Beckham’s entire career, he was well placed to comment on his quality.

“His delivery of the ball was so hard to defend against,” said Custis. “He should never have left Manchester United, he should never have let himself get to the point where he was at odds with the manager and left the club. And I think he will always say that is a big regret. 

“He was at his absolute peak then and, yes, he went on to Real Madrid and won one title, but his career just sort of went away for me. He should never have left this club and I also think that players who leave the club, having fallen out with Sir Alex, sometimes don't get into your best XI because they are looked at slightly differently. 

Four great moments from The Overlap with Becks


Take a deeper dive into Gary Neville's interview with David Beckham for his popular YouTube series.

“There should be a statue of Wayne Rooney around here somewhere because nobody is ever going to reach his goals record, but he fell out with Sir Alex at the end. Ruud van Nistelrooy, probably the most natural goalscorer you've ever seen, fell out with Sir Alex at the end and there is always a slight taint to the career when that happens. 

“So it was a shame for me when David Beckham left because the moment he left, people like Ruud weren't getting the balls through and not just from wide and over the top. They weren't getting the service anymore and the corners were being defended. So much was lost for Manchester United.

“With United fans who may not have experienced that time, I always give him as a great example of what is missing now. If Manchester United were 4-0 up and the ball was rolling out of play for a goal-kick, the one player who would bust his lungs to get that ball and keep it in play would be Beckham. For everything you might think about his celebrity, he would do that. Even if you were 4-0 up in the last minute of the game, it didn't matter, he wanted to keep the ball in play.”

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