David Beckham at 45: Man Utd and England great's highs and lows

By Sports Desk May 02, 2020

Few footballers have enjoyed the worldwide acclaim which came the way of David Beckham.

Originally a superstar at Manchester United, he later became a 'Galactico', an MLS trailblazer and one of England's most-capped players.

Here, on his 45th birthday, we look at the highs and lows of his career.

 

HIGH - A STAR IS BORN AT SELHURST PARK

The goal that changed everything. Back in August 1996, Beckham was a promising young midfielder who had just become a regular for United, his boyhood club.

Then he spotted Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line and dispatched an arching effort over his head and into the net from his own half, raising his arms aloft in celebration as if to acknowledge he had truly arrived.

"When my foot struck that ball, it kicked open the door to the rest of my life," he wrote in his autobiography.

LOW - THAT SIMEONE KICK

An England debut followed soon after that goal and Beckham was a regular for his country during the qualifiers for World Cup 1998.

Yet at the tournament itself, one petulant kick out at Argentina's Diego Simeone resulted in a red card and meant Beckham swiftly went from hero to villain.

Glenn Hoddle's team lost on penalties in the last 16 but Public Enemy No. 1 had already been identified, with an effigy of Beckham even hung outside a pub.

 

HIGH - A TREBLE WINNER

Beckham followed up his World Cup disappointment by turning in the best season of his United career in 1998-99, when Alex Ferguson's side famously won the treble.

The midfielder had 11 assists in the Premier League and one of his six goals came in the come-from-behind win against Tottenham that sealed the title.

Later that month he would slot in at central midfield in the Champions League final, with United dramatically beating Bayern Munich thanks to two late goals which came from Beckham corners.

HIGH - SEALING QUALIFICATION AGAINST GREECE

Cometh the man, cometh the hour.

In October 2001 England were on the verge of missing out on automatic World Cup qualification when trailing Greece 2-1 at Old Trafford, only to win a last-gasp free-kick 30 yards from goal.

Beckham, by then Sven-Goran Eriksson's captain, stepped up and dispatched one of his finest, and most important, free-kicks into the net. Next stop: Japan and South Korea.

 

HIGH - REDEMPTION IN SAPPARO

Four years after Argentina had eliminated from the World Cup, England faced one of their arch-rivals again in the group phase.

And when Michael Owen took a tumble as Mauricio Pochettino dangled a leg in the box, Beckham stepped up with a chance to right the wrongs of Saint-Etienne.

He thumped the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle and celebrated with an outpouring of relief as England won 1-0.

LOW - PAYING THE PENALTY

'Golden Balls' was not always deadly from set-piece situations and it was a missed spot-kick that contributed to England's quarter-final exit against Portugal at Euro 2004.

Beckham began the tournament by missing from 12 yards when England led 1-0 against France - Fabien Barthez saving that effort - and two goals from Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane, including one from the penalty spot, meant the Three Lions were beaten.

Later in the tournament Beckham missed his third straight penalty for his country and blamed the turf for an effort that ballooned over the crossbar, with Portugal going on to win 6-5 in the shoot-out.

 

HIGH - A LALIGA TITLE FROM THE GALACTICO ERA

Beckham had left United for Real Madrid in 2003, the latest 'Galactico' to join Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Raul in the Spanish capital.

However, as he approached the end of his fourth and final season with the club, he had just a Supercopa de Espana medal to show for his efforts.

Beckham had already agreed to join MLS side La Galaxy in June 2007 when he won his first LaLiga winners' medal, though it was his replacement in the final match against Mallorca, Jose Antonio Reyes, who ultimately scored the goals which sealed the title.

 

HIGH - BACK-TO-BACK MLS CUPS

The rise of MLS in recent years owes much to Beckham's impact, the England midfielder having brought interest and respectability to the competition when he went Stateside.

It had looked like being an ill-fated spell in 2009 when Beckham was booed by Galaxy fans on his return from a loan spell at Milan which saw him miss the first half of his second MLS season.

A similar arrangement followed the next season, but Beckham would be around for the entire 2011 and 2012 campaigns, both of which ended with Galaxy winning back-to-back MLS Cups.

HIGH - BOWING OUT WITH ANOTHER LEAGUE TITLE

Not content with league titles in three countries, Beckham added a fourth with Paris Saint-Germain before he was done.

He played 10 times in the latter stages of the 2012-13 campaign having signed a short-term deal that would see his entire salary donated to a local children's charity.

Beckham was made captain for the final match of his career, a 3-1 victory over Brest on May 18, 2013, and he was reduced to tears when he was substituted in the second half.

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