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Posted by John Brewin on 02/17/2010

Before Tuesday, the last time David Beckham was involved in a European game of such magnitude involving Manchester United, he made an exciting but by no means decisive late contribution to the 4-3 classic with Real Madrid in 2003 - scoring two goals from the bench in a lost cause, during a time when he was at loggerheads with Sir Alex Ferguson. In one of his legion of autobiographies, Beckham later irked United fans by admitting he had gone home to tell his sons of "daddy's special night", when United had actually exited the competition, serving of proof to some that he had set his sights on a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The football media is nothing but predictable and I'm sure our readers would argue that the Soccernet team are often prone to taking an obvious line. However, watching certain broadcasters' seeming intention to relegate a Champions League match between AC Milan and Manchester United to becoming another chapter in the David Beckham Story (TM) was somewhat depressing.

That Beckham put in a largely anonymous performance did little to lift the spirits; he still remained the focus. While my colleague Harry Harris saw enough to suggest that Beckham can be an asset to England in South Africa, his editor was left wondering what function he performed for AC Milan. The arrival of a somewhat heavy-looking Clarence Seedorf showed Milan what they had been missing on the right-hand side of a midfield three. Suddenly, his team looked possessive of energy in midfield and had someone to play the sharp and incisive passes that the likes of Inzaghi, Pato and Ronaldinho could thrive on.

The post-match coverage by Sky, for it was they, hugely over-played Beckham's role in Milan's early opener. His long punt was key to the goal in that it went in via a hopeless Evra clearance, borne of having to take responsibility for Jonny Evans collywobbles, a smart hit from Ronaldinho and Michael Carrick's boots to wrong-foot Edwin van der Sar. When hopefully asked about Beckham's dead-ball delivery to a goal awarded to the Brazilian, Ferguson was rightly dismissive. Even that was taken by host Richard Keys as a slight on the Scot's one-time former charge.

To focus so much on Milan's intern from America seemed a waste, considering what a truly intriguing game it had been. Ronaldinho had looked in revival during the game's early stages, as United rocked on uneasy heels. Yet, by the end of the game, it was Wayne Rooney who was announcing his imminent invitation to the top table. Both teams had exposed soft underbellies and set up the second leg as a potential thriller.

What of the man himself, who, as ever, had done little to pipe down the media's quest for soundbites on his relationship with a club he left in somewhat acrimonious circumstances? What of him as an actual player? United's athleticism in midfield, specifically through Park and Fletcher, had overrun Milan's experienced trio of Beckham, Pirlo and Ambrosini, and granted Paul Scholes, after a shaky start in which the radar had failed him, the space to play. Looking back on Beckham's frustration at never being granted a central role when a United player, Scholes showed why he was always the preferred choice. Both are capable of the so-called "Hollywood ball" but it is Scholes' vision and incision when involved in short interchanges of play that made him the favoured playmaker.

One of these players is heavily rumoured to be retiring this summer, the other has spoken of his desire to maybe still be playing in 2014. Yet it was Scholes who completed the 90 minutes while Beckham leggily departed to the San Siro's heated seats in exhaustion with 18 minutes still to play. Beckham is no longer the middle-distance runner he once was, the young man who demolished the rest of United's squad in "bleep tests" at the Cliff training ground. Scholes, you'd fancy, was rarely in the forefront of the cross-country runs back then, but a decade on, he appeared on Tuesday's evidence to be more capable of making an impact on a top-level match.

Of course, the differing paths and public personalities adopted by Scholes and Beckham are Manchester United's own chalk and cheese. Scholes, once he has taken his leave of the game, may never be heard of again, and would happily keep it that way. Brand Beckham is expected to own its own MLS franchise and who knows what else besides.

The build-up to Tuesday's game saw Beckham talk of how he had never wanted to leave United, words aimed in the usual PR-friendly fashion yet perhaps ringing not quite so true to some. He, rightly, was applauded by the travelling hordes in their green and gold for his contribution to his former club, yet his contribution to the game itself had been so anaemic as to signal that a substitute's role in the second leg may be the only way for daddy to again enjoy a special night.

Comments

Posted by jmansor on 02/17/2010

Hmmm, no biased view here! Scholes had one lucky goal last night. Also, I haven't seen the lapses in judgement in Beckham like Scholes has shown recently. Admittedly, Beckham's stay in Milan hasn't been as good this year, but I still think his history shows he has more to offer in the future and at the World Cup. It isn't his fault no English player has really stepped up to permanently dislodge him from the right side of midfield. I believe everything he has done recently has been to increase his chances to play for England. He has his detractors, but we know he would be criticized if didn't show passion for the National Team. Seems to me he can't win.

Posted by dz723 on 02/17/2010

Beckham didn't have his highlighted night as he usually does, but you have to admit Milan didn't have a good game as a team. His role is consricted in the way Leonard plays him. He is almost a right back in their formation when in fact he should be a right winger running down the flank. I don't understand Leonardo's tactics. I think Beckham did well individually even though Milan lost. With Seedorf scoring a second goal for Milan, I think the Italians still have a chance.

Posted by Jim Marchbank on 02/17/2010

Well the one footed wonderboy showed yet again he is past performing on the the world stage. His best bet is to stay MLS oops I forgot The Galaxy won nothing with him either. His days are gone let him RIP and sport his hairstyles and make more money. Yep Scholes was lucky and the defence for AC was not the best at Marking but still gotta praise Rooney.

Posted by James on 02/17/2010

John, were you watching the same game?
Unfortunately Paul Scholes continued his recent lapses of giving possession away particularly in his own half. We could easily have been three goals down with the lapses in passing and losing possession. Beckham did not have a great game but I for one was begging for Gibson to come on and give us more pace in the midfield. How we could have done with Anderson.

Posted by hsm5008 on 02/17/2010

Beckham was anonymous on the night and Scholes was not. While Scholes had his bad moments in the first half (along with the rest of United), he still dictated play. His goal might have been lucky but the passing move that led to the goal was pure class involving him, Carrick, Park, and Fletcher. In the second half he was at the center of everything for United, while Fletcher and Carrick were outstanding winning the ball and distributing it as well. Beckham had some neat passes and did his job on the right side for Milan, but he was by no means a game changer. Scholes however was a game changer for United, and even if his goal was lucky so was Ronaldinho's, and he still got into position to score the goal. I thought Scholes put in a terrific performance last night. He might have had his lapses but he also wasn't afraid to keep trying to spray the ball around the pitch and he did so successfully. Rooney might have got the goals but the midfield was what won United the match.

Posted by varunp on 02/17/2010

Beckham had little impact on the game. Although this may sound simplistic, he is good at set-pieces and mediocre at everything else. He left United at a perfect time. Good riddance! If Milan score first at OT, game ON!...

Posted by Varun Deshpande on 02/17/2010

You know John, in taking the not-so-often-followed-path you may actually have overcompensated and gone way too far.

Posted by delco celtic on 02/17/2010

absolutely ludicrous- your evaluation of Beckham's performance completely ignores formations and tactics- has Milan converted the several chances created off Beckham crosses and corners the result could have been drastically different. Beckham was asked to cover the entire midfield behind 3 all out strikers, not sit and hold territory behind Rooney. When Seedorf appeared given the score, the position was changed to an offensive midfielder with little defensive responsibilities. you should at least acknowledge the tactics of Leonardo and if warranted, question the strategy- not criticize a player for complying.

Posted by Ana on 02/17/2010

You are ManUrinal fan and you know you are

Posted by Kais on 02/17/2010

Stop hating!

Posted by Nathan on 02/18/2010

I enjoyed the piece. If you want to read something I wrote, google "Kaka sucks". I published three days ago. Cheers.

Posted by Rummy Dummy on 02/18/2010

Beckham was,is, and always will remain a very limited player (even a fat Seedorf is far more useful in possession). Besides, when not surrounded by a strong team, he never wins (1999 was Keane's year, not Becksy's). All you England fans know what I'm talking about.

Posted by Rummy Dummy on 02/18/2010

So essentially delco, you agree that Leonardo's tactics exposed Beckham's basic uselessness at anything other than hitting balls with his right foot.

Posted by Macca on 02/18/2010

Beckham didn't put a foot wrong, he rarely does, which is more that you can say about the rest of the Milan team. Perhaps he can be a part-time coach at Man U and teach Nani how to cross a ball... it was chalk & cheese. If United had Beckham putting over all those cross that Nani had then a couple of more goals would have resulted. Scholes, Rooney & Van Der Sar make United special (and Giggs when fit)! Seedorf is a match for Scholes and should have been playing, it was Leonardo's major mistake. United will need to find some new stars that make a difference when they lose there special players... and they may be difficult as I can't see any at the moment!

Posted by Alan on 02/18/2010

An ex-patriot Brit, living near Toronto, I have the opportunuty to see many Serie A games, courtesy of the Telelatino TV channel, usually 2 every Sunday. The "bigger" teams get the most coverage and we see many AC Milan games. In fact I probably recognise more players from the Italian league than from the EPL.
I believe that Beckham never fully recovered his pace following the broken foot episode, but you don't have to be a greyhound to influence the game. He rarely fails to be in the correct position as a play develops and his uncanny acuracy with deliveries from his wing remains undiminished. Man U should be thankful that by shutting down balls from the backfield they were able to marginalise his involvement. His real threat is from set piece plays, so don't give him the opportunity to take free kicks in the danger zone.
Pity about Fellaini, I'd like to see him at Old Trafford; another couple of years and he will be another Jack Charlton controlling the mid-field.

Posted by Andrew Juma on 02/18/2010

Scholes did not miss with his right foot. He meant to steer the ball with his left shin! Ginger Ninja Assassin Number 1.

Posted by Agis on 02/18/2010

And start lovin'!

Posted by Tstmstr on 02/18/2010

Beckham did his job. Very few in the press got the coverage of this game right. Manchester United was very lucky to win this game. Antonini was on the sidelines hurt when Fletcher crossed for Scholes, and his goal was absolute crap. Ronaldinho's goal was a great shot that may have gone in without the deflection. Favalli coming in the game is a big reason Milan was getting overrun in the 2nd half. ManU did a great job not letting Pirlo dictate play, and Ronaldinho and Pato don't offer much help in tracking back. Rooney's goals were classy, and demoralized Milan for a decent spell, but Milan could have easily tied the game, and Inzaghi just missed blowing the roof off the place. Seedorf doing better than Beckham? Nice goal, but he gave the ball away plenty, and has been in poor form lately. I'm glad the Editor wasted his column to feed the media frenzy that he himself accuses Beckham of facilitating, instead of conveying the untold story -- that Man U did not look very convincing.

Posted by Durk on 02/18/2010

Beckam's passing was first touch, crisp and accurate, the same can not be said for Pirlo and Ambrosini.
If Milan had just scored 1/2 of their red hot chances you would have been singing a different tune.
The marvellous Rooney was the difference.

But there is always " journalistic" milage for taking a piece out of Beckham, isn't there.

A cheap shot about the Seedorf goal, he was told to play a different roll than Beckham.

Posted by baba on 02/18/2010

...and there goes the David Beckham machine again! Its ridiculous, i tell you! What UTTER RUBBISH about formations and instructions! He had a BAD game, that's what happened! Beckham is a limited player. He's always had a brilliant right foot and in his prime he could at relatively quick pace cover the field and whip it in. He is PAST his prime and so the 'right foot'remains his only asset. Keep him in a less advanced position and he disappears. Pls QUIT the SILLY EXCUSES.

"Manchester United was very lucky to win this game. Antonini was on the sidelines hurt when Fletcher crossed for Scholes, and his goal was absolute crap. Ronaldinho's goal was a great shot that may have gone in without the deflection" ...LOL!

IF Scholes' HAD properly connected, it apparently WOULDN'T have gone in? BUT 'Dinho's WITHOUT the deflection would have?

Obviously from a daft unobjective Milan Fan...

Balance, please!!!

Posted by Anthony on 02/18/2010

One no-so-good game and all those Beckham haters have a go again.

Beckham did not play very well but I don't think he had a bad game either.

Posted by Dan Edo Mayi on 02/18/2010

pls leave Beckham alone.

Posted by OA Oyowe on 02/18/2010

It's sad that that thrilling game has been made into a Beckham (and now Rooney)story. Milan were unfortunate to have lost. This happens sometimes in football. But to say that United were better on the night and that Rooney was the star of the show is beyond bias. Well, United and Rooney did not turn up for the first half and the first ten minutes of the second. A twenty-five minutes spell saw United double the lead. And everyone talks about the marvelous Rooney - if you honestly wanted to single out a player on the night,then it has to be Ronaldinho (Perhaps, if Milan strikers took their chances no one will be talking about the Marvelous Rooney). There is always a bias towards English players here - an agenda to make one the best player in the world, since FIFA has not found one.

Posted by Gary on 02/18/2010

Were you even watching the same game John? Scholes had some lapses that were lucky not to cost Utd, while Beckham, while certainly not spectacular, never really put a foot wrong. I saw a player who did what was asked of him, and his crosses were excellent, as usual. Nani - were you watching? One of the failings of the game today is an almost complete inability of many players to get a cross in that really threatens - that's something that Beckham still does better than just about anyone. Who would you seriously rather see play a role for England in South Africa - Beckham or Scholes? That Beckham is even under consideration for a place at the WC is because he still offers something that few others do. Let Gerrard and Lampard do the running, and Rooney, Lennon and (when fit) Walcott run at defenses. But when England have a free kick just outside the box with 15 minutes left, I think Mr Beckham would do just fine.

Posted by Tstmstr on 02/18/2010

---"Manchester United was very lucky to win this game. Antonini was on the sidelines hurt when Fletcher crossed for Scholes, and his goal was absolute crap. Ronaldinho's goal was a great shot that may have gone in without the deflection" ...LOL!

IF Scholes' HAD properly connected, it apparently WOULDN'T have gone in? BUT 'Dinho's WITHOUT the deflection would have?

Obviously from a daft unobjective Milan Fan...---

The comment I made was in reaction to the press' suggestion that Scholes' lucky goal cancelled out Ronahldinho's lucky goal. Scholes didn't connect -- that's the point -- he whiffed and still got a goal (off the post) -- when the Milan left back was on the sidelines hurt, allowing Fletcher to move forward and cross. So which goal involved more luck?

Objective? Should Milan have been given a free kick just outside the box for Ferdinand's foul on Ronaldinho? Clearly.

Milan had more chances, and Man U was far from dominating.

Posted by David Saxon Jones on 02/19/2010

For me the Beckham situation is an easy one. His media abilities are now and have been for some time, better than his footballing ones. This is for no other reason than he his getting old. I still think that he should go to South Africa on 1 condition and for 1 reason. The condition is that he only plays as a last 20 minutes or so sub on the basis that he still has the ability to effect the outcome of a game and has enough in his locker to give 20 to 30 minutes of pure dedication. As for the reason, well simply because the other players would benefit of having him in the squad. The older players are his mates and the younger ones want to be. Coppello can leverage the Beckham effect against the younger players. Despite the media circus, Becks does have a wealth of experience, big game knowledge and is a great ambassador to have in the unit

Posted by alan scott on 02/19/2010

Any team that starts with Beckham on it, starts with 10.5 players.His supporters always cite Real madrid's win in 06 as Beckham's great influence. He was substituted in that final game too, and the sub(who no one can name)came in and scored twice to win the championship for Real.It was the same with AC Milan. The substitute came in for Beckham and immediately changed the game.Someone recently commented that England needs Beckham. If that is really case, England are in a sorry state. Get rid of Beckham fast. He is the most overated, overpaid, overhyped and one dimensional player in the history of football.

Posted by Scott O'Hara on 02/20/2010

Please define and explain the etymology of 'collywobbles'....

I wouldn't have pegged you for an aficionado of Australian rules Football!

Posted by Girl Meets Ball on 02/23/2010

Well, he was never a razzle kind of player anyway... More just a strong additive to a team. It's all about the marketing and face!

World Cup blog at: www.girlmeetsball.blogspot.com CHECK IT OUT!

Posted by dionysus on 02/24/2010

'perhaps if milan strikers took their chances nobody would be talking about the marvelous rooney'

Exactly. That is what a marvelous striker does - take their chances. Nobody is talking about Huntelaar because he is paid to score and he didn't. That is all that forwards have to do, after all.

'an agenda to make one (english player) the best in the world'

Paranoid... perhaps there is, but you cannot make a striker better than his record. Rooney is scoring most of the goals for United this year - with Ronaldo gone, plenty of people thought he wouldn't step it up as required, but he has. He is ripping up the Premier League and now a classic smash and grab at the San Siro. If he wasn't on top form, nobody would talk about him. He scored the goals for Capello and England in the WC qualifiers as well. Forget bias, this is just a quality forward and he is still improving. He could score over 40 goals this season... and goals have never been his whole game.

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