HARRISON, N.J. — If there was one player on the MLS All-Star team to go the full 90 minutes in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United on Wednesday, few would have guessed that it would be 36-year-old LA Galaxy star David Beckham.
In his first-ever match at Red Bull Arena, Beckham was the only All-Star to go the distance against his former club. All-Stars manager Hans Backe allowed Beckham to dictate his minutes in this match.
“He just said to me, ‘Let me know how you feel before the game and at halftime,'” Beckham said in the postgame press conference. “The problem is with me, it doesn’t matter how old I am, once I am on the field, I don’t want to come off, and I’ll always be like that.”
This was a major occasion for Beckham, who was facing his old manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the club where he grew up and spent the first 12 years of his professional career.
“I wouldn’t be in the situation I am today if it wasn’t for [Ferguson],” Beckham said. “I owe him a lot. There’s no other team like [Manchester United] in the world.”
The occasion was big enough that Beckham was handed the captain’s armband for the match. The person responsible for giving Beckham the armband is anyone’s guess.
“I was surprised as anyone to get the armband,” Beckham admitted. “I expected Thierry [Henry] to have it, being his team and his home and his fans. I think Thierry may have sneakily just got in my locker before the game. I did thank him for it, but he didn’t admit to it. That’s how Thierry’s like.”
Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung may have been selected by the media as the All-Star Game MVP, but it was the former Manchester United star that received more plaudits than the Korean international in the postgame comments.
“I thought David Beckham did pretty well,” Ferguson said. “Thirty-six years of age and he still has great energy.”
Added Backe, “I think David was phenomenal. He’s so, so competitive. Being around the world playing, he’s still very hungry.”
Backe played Beckham in a free-roaming role in midfield, which suited the Englishman just fine.
“We had a lot of joy with that role in the first half,” Beckham said. “I was able to get on the ball and play a lot of balls through to Thierry and the other players. It worked out well. I enjoyed the nigh; it was a great night for soccer in this country.”
Despite the 4-0 result — which Beckham feels should have featured a penalty kick for the All-Stars on a play involving Brad Davis before Manchester United’s first goal — the LA Galaxy midfielder soaked up the experience that was his first ever match at Red Bull Arena.
Beckham missed his club’s first visit to Red Bull Arena last year as he recovered from his Achilles injury. He’s circled the return date on his calendar this season: Aug. 28.
“I’ve always loved playing in New York,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the best stadiums in MLS. Great fans. They’re passionate fans. And I love the way they cheer for Thierry. It was great to see. It was a pleasure playing here tonight and playing in front of those fans.”