David Beckham offers backing to Mario Balotelli

David Beckham has stuck up for Mario Balotelli in the ongoing row over his ill-advised back heel in Manchester City's friendly in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Blues boss Roberto Mancini immediately replaced the 20-year-old, so unimpressed was he by Balotelli's conduct, leading to a touchline row that heightened fears about a lack of discipline in the City camp.

However, Beckham, whilst reminding Balotelli of his status within the game, did feel there was a legitimate excuse.

"I have watched it back a few times and from his mannerisms I believe he thought he was offside," said the former England skipper.

"Mario has been a great player for quite a few years and he is still very young. He will continue to get better I am sure.

"But it doesn't matter whether you think it was offside or not. There are a lot of young kids watching these teams and great players who come out here.

"You have to be professional and score the goal."

Beckham will bring his own brand of professionalism to the Red Bull Arena tomorrow evening when he appears for the MLS All-Stars in their high-profile encounter with Manchester United.

The 36-year-old will be joined by another former Premier League great in Thierry Henry, who got a playful ear bashing from his new team-mate when he agreed to follow Beckham's lead and carry out an interview with United's in-house station MUTV.

Not that he is going to be too bothered by angry Arsenal fans for a while as, unlike Beckham who had two short stints with AC Milan during the MLS shutdown in an attempt to maintain his England place, the France striker has no intention of returning.

"Nope," said Henry, when asked whether he would contemplate returning to Europe as a player. "I am happy here.

"I am done with Europe. I was fortunate enough to win everything at club level and now I am happy where I am.

"I am trying to help my team win something, which is very difficult. I respect what David has done but right now, for me, no."

MLS coach Hans Bakke has already been dealt a blow with the loss of the USA's most high-profile player after Landon Donovan was forced to pull out with a calf injury.

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