David Beckham’s United debut 30 years on

David had already won a Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools contest and had been an Old Trafford mascot by the time he was offered schoolboy terms by both United and Tottenham. He opted to sign for the Reds even though Spurs had offered better financial terms, purely because he already knew he wanted to be a United player. But the fulfilment of an ambition served only to redouble the teenager’s efforts. “The most important thing wasn’t being at United,” he later conceded. “It was working hard enough to make sure they’d let me stay.”

As part of the famed Class of ’92, which stormed to the 1992 FA Youth Cup and spawned 13 first team players, Beckham was privy to an unparalleled football education. Flanked by some of his generation’s finest young talents and managed by the brilliant Eric Harrison, his formative years were tough but extraordinarily fruitful. “Some of the football we played, even when I look back at it now, no-one could get near us,” recalled Beckham. “To experience that at such a young age was something that I’ll never forget.”

The quality inherent in Harrison’s exceptional young group became self-fulfilling, with hard work underpinning individual efforts as each was driven on by the others’ collective quality. As he vied with the thrilling young right winger Keith Gillespie for inclusion, nobody worked harder than Beckham. He explored every possible avenue to give himself an advantage, including extra set-piece practice which would ultimately make him one of history’s leading dead-ball exponents.

It was in such an instance, on loan at Preston North End in 1995, that Beckham raised eyebrows in the football world by scoring straight from a corner on his debut. Previously North End’s corner-taker, Paul Raynor admitted: “I was a bit perturbed because I was taken off for David to go on. So I was chuntering on the bench, then he went and scored directly from a corner. I had to shut up then!”

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