CARSON, Calif. — For a decade, LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham took part in annual battles for the city of Manchester.
As a Manchester United star, Beckham took pride in defending his club’s honor against Manchester City in a heated derby. When he sees the crest and Man City’s baby-blue colors on Sunday then, emotion will stir within him as he faces his old rivals.
“Not really,” he said this week. “It’s just a small game, but I’m looking forward to the All-Star Game against the best team in Manchester and the best team in England.”
Beckham will depart the Galaxy after Sunday’s World Football Challenge match to join up with his former club as the MLS All-Stars play host to Manchester United in New York on July 27. Manchester City will hope to send him off with something they were unable to do during Beckham’s tenure with United: a loss.
While playing for Manchester United, Beckham went unbeaten against Manchester City. In fact, City’s overall record in the Manchester Derby is dismal. Since 1974, they've claimed one league victory, coming in 2008, although City have FA Cup and Carling Cup victories over Manchester United within the last 18 months.
That City are improving — they qualified for their first Champions League after finishing third in the Premier League last season — means little to Beckham.
“They’re bringing in good players and they’ve got strong people with a lot of money behind them as a club,” Beckham said. “They’re going to improve. They’ve got great players in the team but they’re never going to be Man. United.”
Since the 1992-93 season, Manchester United have won 11 league titles. Manchester City spent a good portion of that time in the second division. While their recent accomplishments have been something of note, they’re still baby steps as the club lags far behind the better half of the Manchester Derby, Beckham said.
“They might be a threat against teams this season and seasons to come, but Manchester United’s got the history,” he said. “Manchester United’s got the silverware over the last 20 years and I’m a Man. United fan and I’m always going to say that. There’s only one team in Manchester.”
That Man. City have not quite inspired him doesn't mean Beckham thinks the match will be a run-of-the-mill encounter for both supporters and teammates.
“Man. City coming over here is great for the fans, great for our young players to play against a team with the caliber of City players," the former England captain said. "It’s going to be a good game, I’m sure.”
Beckham will have the opportunity to play against former England teammates Gareth Barry and Shaun Wright-Phillips as well as Spanish midfielder David Silva and new signing Gaël Clichy, formerly of Arsenal.
Still, it seems that playing against an England club would inspire Beckham. Is that the case?
“No, because it’s Man. City,” Beckham said. “At the end of the day, I’m a Man. United fan.”