30 years on from debut: Our favourite David Beckham memories

Friday 23 September 2022 05:00

Today, 23 September 2022, marks 30 years to the day since David Beckham made his senior debut for Manchester United.

A 17-year-old Beckham, fresh from helping the Reds lift the FA Youth Cup just four months earlier as part of the Class of ‘92, entered the fray as a substitute in a League Cup second-round tie away to Brighton & Hove Albion. 

It would be the start of an illustrious, trophy-filled Old Trafford career on the professional scene that saw him become a dominant contributor to one of the most successful periods in United's history. 

Between that day and his transfer to Real Madrid in 2003, the winger made 394 appearances for the Reds and forged himself a legendary status at his boyhood club, creating memories and moments to savour aplenty.

To mark the anniversary of his bow, several of our journalists have shared their favourite Beckham memories, from his time on the club and international stages, plus what David, the player, means to them…
United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 Video

United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1

16 May 1999: The Premier League title was on the line during a dramatic final-day clash at Old Trafford...

Steve Bartram

In football terms, little ices the blood quicker than an inspired opposing goalkeeper and, on 15 May 1999 (AKA part one of the Treble), all the early signs suggested a mortifyingly inspired day in store for Tottenham’s Ian Walker, whose first-half procession of reflex saves and fortunate ricochets was punctuated solely by Les Ferdinand prodding the visitors into a completely undeserved, script-shredding lead.

With a season’s work on the line, Becks corrected the terrifying new narrative and put events back on course with an unstoppable effort just before half-time. Picking up the ball on the right side of the box, everything was against him: unforgiving angle, unbearable tension, unbeatable goalkeeper. But, under the highest pressure imaginable, he chose that moment to produce a moment of pure brilliance, crashing a finish high into the far top corner to spread mayhem around Old Trafford.

I’ve seen some scenes of celebration here, but the sheer, unbridled joy and relief of that moment remains unforgettable. As a player who wrung every drop of talent and endeavour from himself for Manchester United, it was only fair that such a priceless moment – for me, his signature moment – should forever belong to David Beckham.

Adam Marshall

I don't really know why the game on New Year's Day 2003 always comes first to mind when I think of David Beckham at United. He scored so many brilliant goals and assisted even more and I can vividly recall celebrating each of them. However, there was just something about his performance on a boggy pitch when it really was looking like 'one of those days' against Sunderland.

I watched it in Edinburgh with my Black Cats-supporting future wife and the Hogmanay hangover wasn't being eased by Juan Sebastian Veron putting through his own net and visiting keeper Jurgen Macho having the match of his life. To me, Becks was one man simply refusing to accept dropping points - he was tireless and screaming for possession in a bid to alter the course of events..

Chesting down and prodding a Rio Ferdinand through ball beyond the previously superhuman Macho was still not enough for our indefatigable midfielder. Some would probably have settled for a draw given the circumstances. Never Sir Alex's United. Never Beckham.

This was one of the biggest sporting names on the planet, as it turned out in his final months at the club, and he played his heart out. He'd already created other chances, that were spurned when, from yet another of his rapier-like crosses into the box, Mikael Silvestre knocked it back for Paul Scholes to head home. It was apparently our 32nd attempt of the game and it would help us go on to win the title. This was, for me, Beckham at his very best.
United 2 Sunderland 1 Video

United 2 Sunderland 1

1 January 2003: A dramatic start to the new year as United came from behind to win with two late goals.

Joe Nelson

David Beckham was one of the first footballers I became aware of at a young age, and like many others, I wanted to be just like him. From his adidas Predators, to the cool - and sometimes questionable - hairstyles, Beckham was an idol for aspiring footballers when I was at school.

The way one man mastered his technique and continually delivered on the biggest stage was inspirational and I don't think we've ever had anyone similar since. When United or England won a free-kick, whether it be from a wide position or centrally, the opponent’s goalkeeper and defenders were rightly terrified - he could put the ball anywhere he wanted, from any position!

But to simply call Becks a ball specialist is selling him short. He was a marvel on the ball and formed that fruitful partnership with Gary Neville down the right-hand side. The United and England icon should always be remembered as a special footballer first, before he shot to stardom as a public figure and fashion icon too. What a player he was.
All the goals: David Beckham Video

All the goals: David Beckham

On the anniversary of his United debut, recap each of Beckham's 85 strikes for the club...

Adam Bostock

My standout memory from David Beckham's stellar career was created at Old Trafford - although he wasn't wearing a United shirt that day, in early October 2001. Instead, he was proudly making one of his 115 appearances for England, as Sven Goran Eriksson's side hosted Greece with the objective of securing a place at the 2002 World Cup finals.

Had I only watched the game on TV, I would probably be recalling another Becks display here, and most likely one from his bumper back catalogue with the Reds. But my selection is swayed by the fact I was fortunate enough to be in the stadium, working in the press box, and experiencing the incredible atmosphere in person when our no.7 scored probably the most significant of his 17 international strikes.

The tension was unbearable as David prepared to take what would almost certainly be his last free-kick of the game, three minutes into injury time with the visitors leading 2-1. That scoreline would have sent us into a play-off against Ukraine but Becks had other ideas. When he fired his set piece into the Stretford End net, the Theatre of Dreams erupted and the not-so-impartial reporters around me punched the air. Rarely can a 2-2 draw have been celebrated so wildly and so long into the night.