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Sportswriter Roy Collins
"We knew something daft was going to happen in this tournament - it was completely stupid"
 real 28k

Friday, 7 January, 2000, 02:02 GMT
Man Utd's flawed genius?

The last time: Sent off in St Etienne against Argentina


David Beckham's sending off in the World Club Championship in Brazil is sure to dominate football talk in Britain - and further afield - for days to come.

Many will ask whether the England midfielder has learnt the lesson of St Etienne in 1998, when he was dismissed for kicking out at Argentina's Diego Simeone.


Beckham's ups and downs
1996: "Kids" win double, wonder goal at Wimbledon and England debut
1997: Helps England qualify for France 98
1998: Sent off against Argentina, braves English return
1999: Fatherhood, the treble and marriage, but disciplinary doubts return
2000: "Joke"' underwear revelation before another red card
Despite a fiery on-field nature, it appeared last season that Beckham had put the infamous World Cup red card behind him

Yet after a number of clashes this season, it will come as no surprise to many to see Beckham's name all over the papers again for the wrong reasons.

His supporters say that anyone who criticises should remember the spotlight the young Beckham has lived under for the past five years.

His critics argue that the rewards and the adulation he receives should make it all worthwhile.

The teenage Beckham announced himself to the footballing public during the 1995/6 season, scoring United's first goal of that season in a now famous 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa.


The teenage prodigy in 1995 - no highlights in the hair
"You'll never win anything with kids," scoffed the BBC's Alan Hansen, before Beckham proceeded to prove him wrong as United swept to the double.

Back at Villa Park, the young midfielder scored the goal which took United to Wembley in the FA Cup.

World Club Championship
But it was another strike on the opening day of the following season which began the rise of David Beckham, Superstar.

United were 2-0 up in the closing stages at Selhurst Park when the midfielder received the ball just inside his own half.

He did not play safe, and struck the ball straight over Wimbledon keeper Neil Sullivan for a memorable 50-yard strike.


Beckham doing what he does best: Crosses the ball
A month later England coach Glenn Hoddle handed him a first international cap, and Beckham did not look back as helped his country to the finals in France.

At the same time a media obsessed with both Manchester United and the Spice Girls received the best news of all.

Beckham became engaged to Victoria Adams, and Britain's glamour couple of the 1990s had been formed.

And it soon became clear, that, in the eyes of the media at least, both were now public property.

After England crashed out of the World Cup Beckham was warned by fans of other clubs back home that he was public enemy number one.

He received police protection on his return to training with United in July, and a hostile welcome home in August's Charity Shield at Wembley.

There were doubts over whether he would tough it out, although four days before the season started for real he signed a five-year contract at Old Trafford.

Despite a chorus of boos around the country, which continues to this day along with none-too-subtle chants about his wife, Beckham got on with doing what he does best.

His football remained of a high standard, while he reckoned those who booed him were "just jealous" of his success.

In March 1999 there was a handshake during a reunion with Simeone, after United beat the Argentine's club Inter Milan in the Champions League.


Taking the adulation from Man Utd fans
A day later Beckham became a father to son Brooklyn, and the season ended in amazing fashion for Beckham and United, with the famous treble.

As Beckham and Adams became Mr and Mrs at an Irish castle in July, it appeared that the young footballer had coped admirably since St Etienne almost a year before. He could now do no wrong.

Yet this season has seen him courting more controversy on the field.

In August there was a V-sign aimed at Leeds fans who were singing offensive chants not just about Mrs Beckham, but their baby child.

And a month later he was fortunate to escape red card after kicking out at Steven Gerrard and then stamping on Jamie Redknapp at Liverpool.


Finest hour: Barcelona last May
The feeling that the petulance had been merely oppressed returned when Sturm Graz's Tomislav Kocijan claimed Beckham should have been sent off for kicking him during a Champions League match.

A concerned FA asked to have a word with the England midfielder, while Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly fined the player for appearing at a party in London 12 hours before the game in Austria.

Off the field, his life with a glamorous pop star wife was beginning to become an issue, with reports that she wanted him to leave Manchester for London.


After an on-field clash with Arsenal's Stephen Hughes
He pledged his future to the club, although the stories would not go away, and Victoria Beckham said her husband would eventually move abroad.

December saw a successful appeal against a driving ban, with Beckham claiming his Ferrari was being chased by a photographer at the time.

And the decade ended with a clear recognition of Beckham's talents, when the midfielder was only beaten to the European Footballer of the Year award by Brazilian star Rivaldo.

The new century could not have had a worse start for Beckham, whose flight to Brazil was not an escape from controversy.

Four days into this year, his wife admitted her husband liked to wear her underwear.

Her later claim that it was a joke may be backed up by the fact that it was made on Channel 4's light-hearted Big Breakfast, but the news reached Brazil's news media well before her retraction.


Court beckons over a speeding offence
So was Beckham's mind on all this when he went for a rash high challenge with Necaxa's Jose Milian during Thursday's match? Only he will really know.

And does this latest brush with authority mean that Beckham is not actually worth the trouble for Manchester United?

Some fans have admitted as much and suggest that the club cash in before his contract expires.

Then he will surely demand an even higher salary than the one recently handed to Roy Keane, or will leave on a free transfer.

It remains to be seen how Sir Alex Ferguson weighs this up, despite his understandable defence of the player in the immediate aftermath of Thursday's match.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  World Club Championship
Beckham off in Man Utd epic
06 Jan 00 |  World Club Championship
Ferguson defends Beckham
06 Jan 00 |  Manchester United
Ferguson losing patience with UK press
06 Jan 00 |  Football
Man Utd look to turn up the heat
05 Jan 00 |  Football
Too hot for Man Utd
24 Dec 99 |  World Club Championship
Brazil 2000: Football's new century begins
20 Dec 99 |  World Club Championship
Man Utd: Bidding for unification
04 Jan 00 |  Entertainment
Posh Spice's brief confession
20 Dec 99 |  Football
Rivaldo voted best in Europe
07 Jan 00 |  Sport
Picture gallery: Man Utd misery turns to relief
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Beckham wins driving ban appeal
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Posh Spice floors baby-grabbing fan
12 Dec 99 |  UK
Baby Beckham to be boy racer
18 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Posh and Beckham get fenced in
18 Oct 99 |  FA Carling Premiership
Beckham: I'm here to stay
14 Oct 99 |  Football
Beckham meets FA at last
05 Jul 99 |  The posh wedding
Wedded spice
01 Jul 98 |  UK
Don't persecute Beckham, pleads Hoddle
02 Jul 98 |  Football
Beckham says sorry
23 Aug 98 |  FA Carling Premiership
Beckham runs gauntlet at West Ham
22 Aug 98 |  Entertainment
Posh Spice and Beckham 'overjoyed' at baby news
02 Mar 99 |  Football
Simeone admits faking World Cup injury
15 Jul 98 |  Football
Beckham gets police cover
01 Jul 98 |  Football
England pay penalty again
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.