Eurosport - Mon, 08 Mar 16:17:00 2010
David Beckham returns to Manchester tonight, so what better moment to reflect on some of the midfielder's more memorable moments at Old Trafford?
Beckham spent a hugely successful 10-year period in M16, where he rose through the ranks to become one of the planet's best players and most recognisable faces.
The transformation from slightly goofy looking, floppy haired youngster to global icon has been nothing short of incredible, but what were the moments that made the man?
Here, we take a look at five career-defining incidents at his spiritual home that have shaped Beckham into the man who could now scupper Manchester United's Champions League hopes. Not that the self-confessed lifelong United fan would want to.
Proving Alan Hansen wrong in 1995-96
Okay, not so much one moment, but more a continuous spell of terrific form which proved the television pundit's assertion that "you'll never win anything with kids" to be absolute poppycock. Beckham and his fellow Fergie Fledglings defied all reasonable thinking (and Hansen) to peg back Newcastle, who had opened up a 10-point lead by the turn of the year, and ensure the Premiership trophy returned to the Old Trafford cabinet for another 12 months. Becks also added an FA Cup winners medal to his burgeoning collection that year to confirm his status as one of the country's most exciting young prospects.
Versus Tottenham in the Premiership title clincher
One-nil down against Spurs and facing the prospect of losing the first part of a Treble they were to later, gloriously, clinch, Beckham intervened to pull United back onto level terms just before the break at Old Trafford. And what a strike it was - pure Beckham, pinged with his trusty right foot past Ian Walker and into the top corner. The goal laid the foundations of victory for United - Andy Cole scoring the winner - as well as setting up a memorable 10 days to follow, during which United beat Newcastle to win the FA Cup before that night in Barcelona completed their unprecedented trophy haul.
Sends England to World Cup
Beckham honed his skills as a dead-ball specialist over the years at Old Trafford, but perhaps none of his many set-piece goals were more important than the one he scored there for England against Greece in 2001. Proving that he indeed possesses a pair of huge Golden Balls, he single-handedly dragged his country to the World Cup finals with a typically sensational free-kick as time ran out that won a crucial point in a 2-2 draw. But not only did his strike ensure England qualified outright for the finals in Japan and Korea, it also confirmed his amazing transition from sinner to saint in the eyes of the English public, having been widely vilified for getting sent off at the World Cup in 1998.
Makes the metatarsal bone famous
Honestly, who had heard of a metatarsal before April 10, 2002? Only those in the medical profession knew of its existence in the human body until 'hatchet man' Aldo Duscher piled into Becks during a Champions League match against Deportivo La Coruna. The challenge left Becks with a broken second metatarsal bone in his left foot and sparked an extraordinary flurry of similar injuries. More importantly, Becks missed out on the rest of the season as United ceded the title to Arsenal, although he did make it back in time - just - to feature in the World Cup clash with Duscher's native Argentina that summer.
Fergie's flying boot
Not a moment he will want to remember, but nevertheless one which defined his career - or at least ended his United career. Having already fallen out with Ferguson over his marriage into celebrity life and a perceived lack of focus on his football, it all boiled over in the OT dressing room in February 2003. What actually happened is still the subject of much speculation - was it a thrown or kicked boot? Was it deliberate or an accident or done accidentally on purpose? - but what was there for all to see were the stitches above Beckham's eye as he drove away from Old Trafford after a furious Fergie had lost his temper following defeat to Arsenal. Becks had borne the brunt of his manager's fury and despite helping United to another title that year, he was soon on his way to Real Madrid.
Milan v United, March 10, 2010?
The script has already been written - with Milan leading on the night by an early goal, they still need another one to send United out of the competition as full-time approaches. Beckham rises off the bench to grab it with a trademark 30-yard free-kick, prompting wild celebrations from Rossoneri team-mates. Becks merely bows his head and raises an apologetic hand to the Old Trafford faithful in what becomes the latest iconic pose of his career.
See how Becks gets on with full live text commentary on the United-Milan game at 19:45 on Wednesday night here on Eurosport-Yahoo!