Former Manchester United midfielder David Beckham has described his one-time Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson as the ‘greatest’ ever manager as the pair get set to reunite for a charity match in November.
Beckham will captain a Great Britain and Ireland line-up that will play against a Rest of the World side led by Zinedine Zidane at Old Trafford on November 14 to raise awareness and funds for UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation, with Sir Alex and Carlo Ancelotti managing the teams.
Beckham made over 250 appearances for Manchester United in a career spanning 13 years at Old Trafford, before going on to play for Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
But it was his time at Old Trafford that Beckham, who also won 115 caps for England, looks back on most fondly and particularly his relationship with Sir Alex.
“He was my favourite manager that I ever played for, he gave me the chance to play for the team that I had supported for my whole life and obviously the success we had there was all down to him as a manager and the players that we played with,” said Beckham.
“So to have Sir Alex Ferguson involved in this is something that I could only dream of and I really wanted to thank him for being part of this.
“It’s great to have someone who is so respected, he’s one of the best, if not the most decorated manager in football history, and to have him part of something that is so important to so many children around the world is great.
“We’ll have to wait and see about scoring a free-kick but obviously being back in Manchester is always special for me.
“I spent 12 years in Manchester from a very young age, and obviously have so many great memories from Manchester.
“I always love going back and watching games and taking my kids there, it’s just one of those places that will always be home for me.”
Monday marks 21 years to the day that Beckham made his full senior debut for Manchester United in a 2-0 win over Port Vale at Old Trafford.
And Beckham believes Sir Alex’s ability and knowledge to blood young players at the right time and know when they needed first team exposure marks him out as a footballing great.
During a career spanning 26 years at Old Trafford, Sir Alex won an unprecedented 28 trophies including 13 Premier League titles.
“There was no better feeling,” added Beckham.
“You know, obviously, to grow up in Manchester and to grow up as a Manchester United player, that was always my dream, to play for Manchester United and to become a professional footballer, and to be successful as a Manchester United player.
“And that first game was so special for us. Obviously my first game was in the Champions League, but that was something at 17 years old that you could only dream of as a kid.
“To play my first full senior appearance – that’s what the manager was good at – the manager brought young players into the team, not just myself, obviously Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Keith Gillespie, all these players that actually played in these games
“He brought these young players in and that’s why he was successful the way he was.
“We knew that we’d have a chance of playing because that’s what the manager did in these games, he liked to change the first team up and bring younger players into these games.
“It was something that we all hoped that we play in, he’d tell us the day before, but it was obviously something that we all cherished.
“Playing for Manchester United, it’s never easy, and to get that chance, you never know if it’s your last game or the first of as many games as we all played.
“But luckily the manager had enough faith in us kids – and we were young kids – the fact that he threw us all in at the same time, shows the vision he had for the future, and the faith he had in us.”
Beckham, who won 19 major trophies during his career and league titles in four differing countries, admits to keeping a close eye on proceedings at Old Trafford this season and is impressed with the form and performances of the current crop as Manchester United sit proudly on top of the Premier League table.
“I think it’s very exciting at the moment, there are a lot of young players who have come in to the team and are performing the way they’re performing,” said Beckham.
“Obviously you’ve got Wayne Rooney leading the line, and everything seems to be coming together at the moment.
“I think it’s important that we have that togetherness that we had back in the day, that all Manchester United teams have had. We seem to have that so let’s hope that the young players that the manager has brought in can continue to play the way they’re playing.
“Only time can tell on how good the season can be I think. At the moment, we’re going through a very good time with players performing at the right times, so if that continues I think the season will be very successful.
“But we’ve got a lot of young players finding their way, but doing great jobs, and I think the manager, and obviously Ryan Giggs in there as well, it’s an important time but I think it’s a good time at the moment.”
And the former England skipper, his country’s most capped outfield player, is backing Manchester United to continue their recent good form when they travel to the Emirates on Sunday to play against fellow high-flyers Arsenal.
“I’d like to think they can win the title,” added Beckham.
“Obviously it’s a big game this weekend. Playing against Arsenal was one of the highlights of the season, especially when there was the rivalry that there was back in the day.
“But I think United are coming off a good Champions League result, Arsenal not so much, so there’s a little bit more pressure on Arsenal this weekend, but Arsene Wenger is a great manager, he’s got a good team, there’s always difficult moments, but United are having a good time at the moment and I hope that continues on Sunday.”
Over the past decade Beckham has played a crucial role in helping UNICEF promote and protect the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.
He has raised global awareness of the dangers children are facing around the world including malnutrition, Ebola, AIDS, violence and the devastating effects of natural disasters.
He has travelled to see UNICEF’s work, meeting children in Sierra Leone, South Africa, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.
“It’s a fun day for families and these games are all about bringing children, grandparents, it’s all about having fun and seeing players that have played at the top of the game for so many years,” added Beckham.
“It’s a pleasure for me to go out and to be coming back to Old Trafford, and being managed by one of the greatest managers of all time, next to a team that for me, is being captained by one of the best players of all time.
“And then obviously Carlo Ancelotti being in the management team of the other side, it’s going to be a very special day and I hope people come out for a great cause, because that’s what it’s all about.
“This game is about raising funds for children all around the world and to shine a light on the situation. I just hope people come out and enjoy themselves.”
The David Beckham UNICEF Match for Children kick-offs at 3pm on 14th November 2015 at Old Trafford, Manchester. Tickets from £20 (Adults) & £10 (Under-16s) are on sale at www.manutd.com/tickets