Beckham's blunt warning for Scholes

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's quiet rebel was given a warning last night by one of his closest team-mates. "Sir Alex Ferguson is the boss," David Beckham said. "You don't cross him twice."

Scholes stepped out of line on Monday when he refused to play for what was effectively a Manchester United reserve team in the Worthington Cup at Highbury. Ferguson, angry at being disobeyed but aware of Scholes' value to his team, is said to have accepted an apology, probably accompanied by a fine.

Beckham, whose own run-in with Ferguson resulted in his being dropped for a match at Leeds after missing training, said yesterday: "You never question Sir Alex Ferguson. He's the boss. You only cross him once and that's it."

Beckham added: "He's just as intense as ever. He can be quite scary. He's still got that hunger to win things. He's one of the best managers in the world and you've always got to prove to him you want to be in the team."

Ferguson had suggested after Sunday's defeat to Liverpool that the team were no longer sufficiently motivated. They have won once in six matches and slipped to sixth in the Premiership. "Maybe some players have been here too long and are taking success for granted," said Ferguson, who dropped Scholes and substituted Beckham. "It has been a concern for some time and until we address it we will continue getting results like this. Liverpool had a greater hunger than us. They are where we were four years ago."

Beckham admitted: "Liverpool worked harder than us, which is unusual for Man United," but added: "I'm sure it is more fatigue than a lack of hunger but, if the manager is saying that, all the players can do is prove to him we are still hungry.

"Sometimes the manager needs to say things. He does not speak openly to people about players often but, when he feels he has to, he does. We have to respond to that. Hopefully we will. We have done so well for eight or nine years because the players' hunger is massive. People question it every season but we always prove them wrong.

"People might say it is a crisis, but there is a crisis every week with Man United whether we win, lose or draw. Is Paul frustrated? We are all frustrated. Every one of the players and the manager. We're frustrated because we are not playing as well as we can do.

"We have a dip every season. Maybe this is this season's dip. We would have liked this season to be smooth for the manager but I suppose we have to make it hard for ourselves."

Beckham said he had not spoken to Scholes about his situation or Ferguson's response during his own dispute. He said: "I don't know the details and, although it is all over the papers, so is the claim that I'm going to spend £2,000 on a pair of jeans. I'm not."

Several clubs, including Juventus, have already contacted United to inquire about Scholes' availability but Beckham, a colleague since the pair were 14, added: "I don't think there is any chance of Paul leaving Old Trafford."

The last time Scholes played Sweden, Kevin Keegan had him so pumped up that he should have been sent off for a first-minute assault on Hakan Mild and later was dismissed. Was there a danger that this week's events might make him too fired up again? Beckham said that, as far as he could tell, there was no change in Scholes' normal mood. "Paul doesn't need lifting because he's not down. He is a strong character."

Beckham, incidentally, said that he would abide by any industrial action called by the Professional Footballers' Association after the result of its ballot on the issue is announced this afternoon. "I'm prepared to do whatever everyone else is doing," said Beckham. "I'm prepared to back the PFA."

Since the first occasion on which Manchester United's players may be asked to down boots is 25 November, when they are scheduled to play Arsenal, it could mean Scholes refusing to play at Highbury for the second time in a month. Only this time Ferguson, the former union official, is likely to be by his side, not on his back.