How Sir Alex Ferguson has an enduring bond with the Class of '92
How Sir Alex Ferguson has an enduring bond with Manchester United’s iconic Class of ’92 as they stood by him at wife Cathy’s funeral
- Recent Beckham Netflix series focused on infamous incident back in 2003
- But they soon patched things up with Beckham holding Ferguson in high esteem
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
The Netflix series on the life and times of David Beckham was inevitably going to rake over old coals.
Filmmakers want friction and conflict to attract viewers and when it comes to Beckham, his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a rich seam to explore.
Plenty of time was spent picking over the infamous boot-kicking incident in 2003 that led to the end of Beckham’s Manchester United career.
It’s an incident that has been dredged up time after time in the 20 years since Beckham sported an Alice band and the most ostentatious sticking plaster of all-time.
In the Netflix series, Beckham recounts how he argued with ‘the boss’ and swore at him, before reacting to the boot striking him in the forehead by going at Ferguson.
Manchester United legends David Beckham and Gary Neville attended the funeral of Sir Alex Ferguson’s wife, Lady Cathy, in Glasgow this week
The infamous Ferguson boot-kicking incident that led to Beckham’s departure from Manchester United in 2003 was prominent in the new Netflix series
But Beckham and his former manager have long since patched up their relationship
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The legendary United manager tells them: ‘I kicked the boot at his head? I mean, honestly, it was an absolute freak.’
Intentional or not, it was the moment that confirmed Beckham’s 22-year career at Old Trafford – as boy, man and then global icon – was at an end.
Beckham recalls how Ferguson refused to speak to him when he rang up to plead not to be sold to Real Madrid in the summer of 2003.
‘Did I ever want to leave Man United? No, never,’ Beckham tells the documentary. ‘It was my home. My relationship with the boss was always special. We had our moments, but I still loved him.’
Ferguson said their relationship ‘was at a stalemate, the decision was made and it was better he went.’
Revisiting that collapse in such a strong relationship has garnered plenty of headlines but in Ferguson’s hour of need this week, Beckham wasn’t found wanting.
Beckham was in Glasgow on Monday to attend the funeral of Ferguson’s wife, Lady Cathy, after her death aged 84.
Their relationship was repaired a long time ago – any lingering animosity long forgotten – so this really should come as no surprise even if the Netflix series may leave viewers wondering.
During the Netflix series, Beckham acts out the moment he realised he’d been struck by a boot
Beckham recalls how he rose from his seat to confront Ferguson after being hit by the boot
Beckham admits that he ‘went at’ Ferguson during the heated dressing room argument
Beckham’s ostentatious plaster certainly drew attention to the damage done by the flying boot
For one thing, Ferguson wouldn’t have given up his time to even sit before the cameras if he still bore a grudge.
Beckham very quickly sought to play down what happened in the United dressing room after that 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal in 2003.
He would come to align with Ferguson in describing it as ‘a complete freak accident’ that was ‘forgotten straight away within the club… done and dusted.’
Ever since, he has always described Ferguson in the highest terms and expressed gratitude.
There were smiles and handshakes when Beckham, then an AC Milan player, dropped in on United’s training session ahead of a 2009 Champions League quarter-final with Inter Milan at the San Siro.
When Ferguson retired in 2013, Beckham wrote a glowing tribute: ‘The boss wasn’t just the greatest and best manager I ever played under he was also a father figure to me.
‘Without him I would never have achieved what I have done in my career.’
Ferguson with his Class of 92 stars at Gary Neville’s testimonial in 2011 – Right to left: Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs
Beckham with Ferguson watching United train in the San Siro ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Inter Milan in 2009
Beckham and Ferguson pose for a picture at the World Aids Day Gala in 2017
Beckham and Ferguson seen together at a similar fundraising event in London in 2015
Beckham even thanked Ferguson for the ‘support and protection’ after he became public enemy No 1 in England following his red card against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
That warmth was reciprocated when Beckham announced he was hanging up his boots a few weeks after Ferguson retired.
‘He is an amazing person and when it comes to longevity and reinventing himself – David has been absolutely incredible,’ Ferguson said.
They have since been pictured together attending charity functions, and when United’s brilliant 1999 Treble-winning team played Bayern Munich legends in 2019, they walked out onto the Old Trafford turf together.
When Lady Cathy passed away, Beckham described her as ‘an incredible person, adding: ‘We looked up to the boss and we also looked up to Cathy.’
But perhaps deep down there is disappointment on both sides that Beckham didn’t stay at Old Trafford a little longer.
Beckham made it clear to Netflix he didn’t want to leave in the first place, and Ferguson surely would have preferred Beckham to spend his entire career at the club like fellow Class of 92 graduates Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
Ferguson greets Gary Neville, another Class of 92 member, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watches on ahead of the 2019 Champions League quarter-final between United and Barcelona
Neville and Ferguson’s relationship has always been strong though the former defender admitted ignoring his old manager’s advice when in charge at Valencia
Neville also attended Lady Cathy’s funeral this week and their mutual respect has also always been strong. After all, Neville did play 602 games for United over nearly two decades, all under Ferguson.
He interviewed his old boss for Sky Sports in 2021, dissecting Ferguson’s approach to management, in one of just a handful of interviews given since he retired.
Indeed, in his Sky punditry, Ferguson understandably remains Neville’s go-to reference point. In August, when Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola confronted Erling Haaland on the pitch, Neville claimed Ferguson would never have done such a thing.
There were clashes when Neville’s punditry career and Ferguson’s managerial career overlapped, including over Neville’s criticism of United goalkeeper David de Gea as he struggled in his second season at Old Trafford.
‘It was in the second season of my punditry, so he let the first season go,’ Neville told The Overlap in 2022.
‘Do you remember, his first season was a massive struggle, wasn’t it? But in the second season, he started to improve, to the point he became one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Ferguson went to court in 2022 to defend Ryan Giggs as he faced charges of controlling and coercive behaviour against ex-girlfriend Kate Greville
The charges were ultimately dropped against former United winger Giggs
‘Sir Alex rang me and said ‘I got it last year, but I think you’re being f***ing unfair, son’.’
Neville also admitted to ignoring Ferguson’s advice to cull any players not pulling in the same direction when he took charge of Valencia in 2015.
‘I remember speaking to Sir Alex early on and his advice was: ‘Just get rid of them and protect yourself’,’ Neville told Sky Sports in 2021.
‘But I didn’t listen. I tried talking some players round to staying until the end of the season. But they weren’t happy. I ignored Sir Alex’s advice.’
As Ferguson was recovering from the brain haemorrhage he suffered in May 2018, the Class of 92 legends Neville, Scholes, Giggs and Nicky Butt treated him to lunch at The Ivy in Manchester – a nice token of their esteem.
But perhaps the most remarkable example of the enduring bond between the Class off 92 stars and their mentor was when Ferguson, then 80, stepped into the witness box at Manchester Crown Court last August to give evidence in support of Giggs when he faces charges of controlling and coercive behaviour against ex-girlfriend Kate Greville.
Ferguson said Giggs had a ‘fantastic temperament’ and was ‘without doubt the best example we had at the club’ during his long and distinguished United career.
Asked by Giggs’s barrister whether he’d ever seen him ‘lose his temper or become aggressive,’ Ferguson replied: ‘No’.
Scholes had some run-ins with Ferguson and admitted never daring to answer him back
The charges against Giggs were dropped in July after his former partner declined to give evidence in a second trial after the jurors were unable to reach verdicts in the first one.
Scholes, also a pundit, has dipped into what must be a treasure trove of Ferguson anecdotes from his career – but with nothing but affection for his old boss.
One involved Ferguson going ‘absolutely ballistic’ at him and telling him ‘you’ll never play for this club again’ after he gave the ball away and cost his team a crucial goal in a 4-3 loss at Newcastle United in 2001.
Scholes admitted he ‘would never say anything back’ at Ferguson but on this occasion was so incensed he kept answering with ‘b*******’ to everything the manager was saying.
Butt, who spent nine years working as a coach in United’s academy following his playing retirement, described Ferguson as a ‘God’ when he returned for the 20-year Treble reunion in 2019.
The warm words are heartfelt, the anecdotes told with a smile.
The Class of 92 were arguably Ferguson’s greatest achievement at United and the mutual respect and affection remains strong even if they’ve all had their run-ins with the man known universally as ‘The Boss’.
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