This week, Sir Alex Ferguson said that he is finding trouble filling the chasm vacated by Paul Scholes this summer. Who wouldn’t? Many class Scholes among some of the greatest midfielders in the history of not only English football, but the world game.
Hinting at further spending, the Glaswegian manager noted that “If we can get a player along similar lines in terms of the quality of his passing and vision, then yes, we’d have to do something.” But if the United manager cannot land Luka Modric, Wesley Sneijder or Samir Nasri this summer, is there another short-term option? Football romantics might think so.
Watching Gary Neville’s testimonial against Juventus in May, one could not but think about the number seven. Not Manchester United’s Michael Owen but David Beckham, world superstar, one of the biggest brands in football and – many people forget – still a very good player. World class? Maybe. But Becks retains all the attributes and characteristics to sort out one of United’s biggest problems – midfield.
Many will write this off as the fantasy ramblings of a fan – it is – but that does not hide the fact Beckham has the class that could really benefit United.
One of Beck’s characteristics was on show at Neville’s testimonial. Scholes’ retirement at the end of the season means that Beckham is now the best long passer in the world. The 36-year-old’s display during the match included a range of pin-point 80 yard passes for fun. The player also lasted the full 90 minutes and obviously feels that he is in good physical condition.
Beckham’s past speaks for itself; a United legend, helping the team to six Premier League trophies, two FA Cups and a Champion’s League trophy as part of the treble wining side of 1998-99. Beck’s is a set piece specialist and arguably the greatest crosser in the history of the game. At Neville’s testimonial he took the best corner of anyone in a United shirt for years.
Tactically, Beckham could be just as good an option as Modric. After all, the player has always fancied himself as a central midfielder and allegedly engaged in many heated debates on this point with Ferguson who saw Becks’ crossing ability as the player’s key weapon. The Los Angeles Galaxy player has lost most of what little pace he had in his youth and is finally been able to thrive in his preferred position, where he can dictate play with either short or long-range passing from the ‘quarterback’, regista or deep-lying playmaker position.
In fact Beckham is a more feasible option than Inter Milan number 10 Sneijder, whose natural position on the pitch encroaches on Wayne Rooney’s stomping ground in the ‘hole’. Beck’s control and touch also make him a very good central midfielder; more attack-minded than Michael Carrick.
The stats speak for themselves. Becks has made 16 appearances since March for the LA Galaxy and has notched up two goals and seven assists. In the player’s time in the ever-improving MLS, he has made 65 appearances while scoring 12 goals and has made 24 assists. It’s a similar game-goal-assist ratio to Ryan Giggs over the same period.
Another reason for Beckham’s arrival is experience, offering his boyhood club a year of service while allowing rising talents Tom Cleverley, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba an earlier chance to break-though into the first team than if the 25-year-old Modric or 27-year-old Sneijder were to join. Beckham’s influence in the dressing room around these young player would also be an invaluable asset to a club which has lost five senior players in recent times.
Beckham has also played in La Liga and his knowledge of ball retention could be a great help to United’s crop of talented youngsters. He might also be able to teach Bébé how to cross! Importantly, Beckham’s relationship with Ferguson has seemingly healed over the years.
Beckham, in the final year of a £135 million contract, would be happy to take a wage cut at the club closest to his heart. He offered to take a wage reduction when trying to secure a loan deal to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year. After all, the economics of deals for Modric or Sneijder deals are eye-watering; Beckham’s is potentially lucrative for the club. When Real Madrid signed him from United for £25 million in 2003 the club claimed to have made the fee back in shirt sales inside a week.
This is a fantasy of course but there is also a good argument for Beckham’s return, stepping into the shoes of his good friend, Scholes.