Thanks for the memories, Becks
We could rattle off a list of all the achievements that David Beckham has won throughout the course of his career, but the truth is, you already know. From the free kicks to the H&M advertisements, David Beckham quickly became an ever-present, unrelenting force in sports and style, one of the first footballers to be embraced and recognized on such a global scale. And while some may maintain a cynical perspective on the trajectory Beckham’s career took, we here at AFR HQ will always remember his ability to transform a monotonous, insignificant match, into a spectacle.
As Becks hangs up his boots, here are some thoughts from the people who knew him best, his peers.
“David was different - he was a crosser of the ball, a passer of the ball, he was a joy to play with… He has probably been the most influential player out of England in transforming football. The impact he has had is enormous.” - Gary Neville
“On the pitch, Beckham sees everything before everyone else.” - Carlo Ancelotti
An early exit after 27 years: Sir Alex steps down in his own style
The numbers pop out of his resume like eyes out of a cartoon character: he won 27 major trophies with United over the same number of years; he outlasted 116 managers on seven major European clubs; and he’s won 75% of his home games at Old Trafford. Nothing satisfied his hunger for success, and his diet never consisted of anything but winning. He’s always the first man at Carrington, the team’s training facility in Greater Manchester, there before staff and players as early as 5 a.m. He’s said over and over that he has trouble envisioning life without football. Retirement was something he wasn’t exactly ready for. “Nobody’s getting rid of me,” Sir Alex Ferguson told The Guardian in March.
Nobody – not the media, not the club, not his body – but himself did.
A different red, the same Robin van Persie finally conquers England
Everything turned to gold for Manchester United the moment Alex Ferguson completed one of the finest signings of his career. A historic coup d’etat. On the 15th of August 2012, Robin Van Persie joined the club for £24m and a masterplan to retake the Premier League crown from local rivals was set in place.
They had already tasted success as Ferguson triumphed before the start of another season, jousting Roberto Mancini in a transfer market where he’d previously been so active and dominant. Van Persie wanted one club, the red one, as he clearly stated during his unveiling: “Manchester United breathes football. If you look at all the players from Manchester United, the stadium, the manager - my choice was made very soon in my mind.”
Rooney can score with his eyes closed
Robin van Persie aside, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, and Chicharito have defined Man Utd’s strike force in recent years. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole defined Manchester United’s attack in the late 90s. So when the retired talismen challenged the current set of players, they threw in a little twist: scoring while blindfolded. Cole and Yorke showed that their trust in one another made it simple, whereas Rooney and Welbeck needed a few rounds to combine on something special. [video. Posted by Eric.]
Sir Bobby’s Combover
Bobby Charlton scored 249 goals in 758 games for Manchester United. In the 17 years that it took for him to achieve those statistics, he won three First Division titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup, scoring twice in the final against Benfica and lifting the trophy as captain. He survived the Munich air disaster to win the World Cup with England at Wembley Stadium, and in 1994 received a knighthood.
He also cleverly disguised his baldness by flipping his hair over to one side of his head. He is a truly remarkable man.
Sir Alex Ferguson lost it. He saw the red card and charged like a bull. He slammed the seat in front of him, pushing a team official out of his way to reach the touchline, looking this way and that, as if searching for an answer. There were none. In a seemingly innocuous attempt to cushion the ball floating over him, Nani collided with Real Madrid’s Alvaro Arbeloa and caught him with his cleat. He was sent off.
Just minutes before, Manchester United enjoyed the product of Nani’s labour. The winger picked up the ball inside the box and sent it inward, where Madrid’s Sergio Ramos knocked it into his own goal. All the risks Ferguson took looked justified. Wayne Rooney was sitting on the bench, but the manager’s functional players had followed his orders: they sat back, gifted Madrid the ball and struck on the counter with seething pace.
United were beating their opponent at their own damn game.
And then it all fell apart. The dismissal of Nani, whether it was right or wrong or misunderstood or calculated — Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir had a good couple of minutes to deliberate his verdict, and brandished his red card almost out of nowhere — forever took the protagonist’s role in the game. It robbed the game of its purity. It conjured questions in a game that had been such a wonderful display of football. The defending was masterful. The play was quick. The game was open, a chess board with all its pieces cast in strategic places by each of its players, Ferguson and his friend Jose Mourinho. Ferguson was winning.
Then an undue interruption: in the form of Nani, the pride and wind and the concentration that got United this far in the game left the match. Ferguson barked at the fourth official, who just told him to calm down. And he did. He drew that familiar scowl on his face, while chewing his gum ever so fiercely, and gestured to the crowd. Come on! Come on! Get behind our lads, Ferguson said with his hands, fluttering in front of his choir of 74,959 at Old Trafford on Tuesday. He looked like he wanted to channel everyone’s frustration and concentrate that energy on the greater good: winning it.
But that wish wasn’t granted.
Four years later, the boy from Madeira returns to his Theatre of Dreams
“That is the one million dollar question: what will make the difference? Nobody knows and the world will stop to watch this tie. It doesn’t look a tie. It looks a final. I doubt the expectation can be bigger than this one.” - Mourinho
It really is the return we’ve been waiting for. Cristiano Ronaldo will once again walk onto the Old Trafford pitch, the stage on which he entertained for 6 years, where he wrote his name in gold, his former home, wearing the iconic number 7. Except this time his shirt is painted blanco.
Some goals never change, by Dan Leydon
Sir Alex loved having him alongside Rooney, but those days have passed.
Mourinho couldn’t stand him, now he can’t imagine his team without Ronaldo.
As he returns to Old Trafford next week, this is inspired by the two men who know, more than anyone, just how dangerous Cristiano can be.