Sir Alex Ferguson autobiography: What really happened in the dressing room between me, a flying boot, and David Beckham

What caused the argument which ended in a cut eye in 2003?

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed the reasons why David Beckham had to leave Manchester United, and what actually happened in the dressing room when David Beckham was struck with a football boot just above his left eye.

The former Manchester United manager has explained the situation in his book, claiming that the England captain at the time had brought on the incident himself.

"Goldenballs", as Beckham was affectionately known, had been linked with a move away from United throughout the season, and the Scottish manager admitted that both he and the coaching staff could see that the right midfielder was no longer maintaining the intensity that saw he rise to stardom.

Having lost in the FA Cup in February 2003, Ferguson was furious with his side’s performance, with Beckham being singled out in particular.

“In his final season with us, we were aware that David's work rate was dropping and we had heard rumours of a flirtation between Real Madrid and David's camp,” Ferguson explained. “The main issue was that his application level had dropped from its traditionally stratospheric level.

”He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye. Of course he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. 'Sit down,' I said. 'You've let your team down. You can argue as much as you like.’”

Although the matter happened in the changing room away from the prying eyes of the public, it wasn’t long before the cut was – predictably – picked up on, first by the media, and then by fans worldwide with a bust-up immediately reported between player and manager.

“The next day the story was in the press,” Ferguson continued. “In public an Alice band highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot. It was in those days that I told the board David had to go.

“My message would have been familiar to board members who knew me. The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go. I used to say, 'The moment the manager loses his authority, you don't have a club. The players will be running it, and then you're in trouble.'”

Given the tension between the two boiling over, it was no surprise that Beckham joined Real Madrid that summer after Ferguson decided he had to go.

Further reading...

Sir Alex on...the end of his relationship with David Beckham

Sir Alex on... Rock Of Gibraltar 'misunderstanding'

Sir Alex’s reign in pictures

My Autobiography: the key observations

Sir Alex on...the ‘battle of the buffet’ after Arsenal victory

Sir Alex on…turning down the England job twice

Sir Alex on…Cristiano Ronaldo, the greatest player he worked with

Sir Alex on… Rafa Benitez turning their rivalry personal

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