When David Beckham stepped onto the Old Trafford pitch on Wednesday night, he seemed to have a little tear forming in his eye as the crowds chants of ‘there’s only one David Beckham’ rang in his ears. The former England skipper could have been forgiven for shedding a tear or two as it is one of the worst kept secrets in football that ‘one of Manchester United’s biggest fans’ wanted to leave the club about as much as Ronaldinho wanted to join it.
While Beckham may have been pushed rather than jumping from Old Trafford, there can be little doubt that when he left he may have expected to win at least one Champion’s League winner’s medal to add to the one he won at United. In the seven years since he left Beckham has had limited success, at least trophy wise, winning one La Liga and-the one trophy every player dreams of- the Western Conference with LA Galaxy. Hardly a rewarding return for a player deemed one of the best in the World, particularly when joining a team full of other so-called superstars, sorry ‘Galacticos.’
The successor to his United number seven shirt a certain Cristiano Ronaldo or CR9 as he’s known to his mates, was learning that life at the Bernabeu is not all sunshine and rainbows-as Rocky Balboa said to Rocky junior. Real Madrid’s exit from the Champion’s League had a double meaning for many Ronaldo fans. On the one hand it highlighted that despite what some people may have believed Ronaldo cannot do it all on his own, last season some commentators -particularly after his goals against Porto and Arsenal-seemed to think that the man currently featured on the side of buses wearing nothing but underwear was the sole reason United got to the final. I’m not saying that United would have gotten there without him, but as the victory this season at the Emirates proved, along with the demolition of Milan, a Ronaldo-less United is still a force to be reckoned with.
Although Ronaldo shouldn’t be too worried, after all it is only his first season and you’d be a foolish man to bet against him eventually helping Real Madrid to some form of glory, he will obviously have been given pause for thought.
When it comes to leaving United for the continent very few players actually go on to achieve very much. Paul Ince was one of the first United players, at least in the Premier League era, to decide that the grass was greener once you went from the ‘banks of the River Irwell to the shores of Sicily.’ His time at Internazionale was far from a failure, as he was widely admired by the fans during his two-year stint at the San Siro. However a UEFA cup final appearance-where Inter lost on penalties- was scant reward for a player who’d won six trophies in as many years at Old Trafford. By the time Ince’s replacements were lifting the treble, the self-styled Guv’nor was enjoying a trophy-less time at Anfield, the highlight of which seemed to be scoring an equaliser against United in front of the Kop which culminated in him celebrating as though he’d won the World cup.
Peter Schmeichel decided there were too many games in the Premier League so went to Portugal to spend the twighlight of his career at Sporting. However despite winning a league title in his first season he was soon back in blighty tarnishing his standing with United fans by being part of a successful derby-day City side, before redeeming it again by helping to prevent Liverpool qualifying for the Champion’s League. He may well have been much better served by simply staying at Old Trafford and saving himself all the air miles- plus sparing United fans the trauma of watching Massimo Taibi keeping goal.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a player who decided he preferred paella to pasties and went to Madrid with a reputation as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers. Van Nistelrooy’s was something of a success story as he twice won La Liga- compared to the solitary title he won at United. It must be noted though that in the three full seasons since he left, United have won three titles, a Champions League and been runners-up. Whether Ruud regrets leaving is anyone’s guess but he may just have cast a slightly jealous look over some of his former team-mates at one time or another as any form of European success has eluded him despite being the Champions League second-highest top scorer off all time.
Gabriel Heinze’s transfer out of Old Trafford was probably the most acrimonious in recent history as the little Argentine angered United fans –sounds familiar-by trying to engineer a move to Liverpool. Instead he was shipped off to Real Madrid- hardly a bad alternative-where he won La Liga in his first season. He did get a trip to Anfield though, but unfortunately for him it was as part of the Madrid side that were demolished 4-0 in the Champion’s League.
When considering his options this summer Nemanja Vidic may do himself a favour by looking at some of the recent players to leave sunny Manchester for a place with actual sun. Although according to reports it is Mrs Vidic who is unhappy with her lot in the North-West, the Serbian could point out that with Blackpool a mere 30 minutes away ,The Trafford Centre on your doorstep along with the Lowry Centre, Manchester has got everything you could want from a city and more. He could also remind her that she won’t get curries like they serve in Rusholme in Barcelona that’s for sure. If that doesn’t work though and to be fair it isn’t likely to, Vidic could argue the fact that for many leaving Old Trafford regardless of where you go to, it is invariably a step down. You may get more money at some other clubs but the chances of you winning more trophies are slim to say the least. As players such as Giggs, Scholes and Neville have proven over the years, the longer you stay at United the more success you achieve. Whether that’s good enough for Mrs Vidic though, remains to be seen.
Read more of Justin Mottershead work at his blog ‘Name is on the Trophy’