David Beckham surely looked at home. The Galaxy midfielder, back in a Manchester United shirt for best pal Gary Neville's testimonial match Tuesday at Old Trafford, received the loudest ovation and was serenaded with “Fergie, sign him up” chants in his return to his original club.
He also saw a lot more action than he expected, and more than the Galaxy would have preferred. The 36-year-old midfielder, given permission by L.A. to miss Wednesday's game at Home Depot Center against Houston, played the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Italian giant Juventus.
Beckham, making his first appearance for Man United since leaving for Real Madrid in 2003, played in his trademark spot on the right flank, just in front of Neville, and delighted the crowd with his touch, passing and two shots. He forced a diving save from Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari just before halftime, and blistered a free kick just over the crossbar in the 68th minute.
“Definitely won't be any more than 45 minutes,” Beckham said when asked Saturday how long he'd play in the match. “I think it will be a walk on, play for a bit, then walk off.”
Not quite. Although the pace and intensity -- and certainly defensive bite -- of friendles are nothing like in a competitive match, running around for 90-plus minutes three days after helping the Galaxy beat Chivas USA and four days before a match at New England is of no help to his current club. Oh, and throw two cross-Atlantic flights in there, too.
But the occasion was special, as befitting as loyal a servant as Neville has been to Man U. Including his youth days, the former England national-teamer has spent more than 20 years with the club.
Neville, 36, who retired in Feburary, departed in the 84th minute, hugging Beckham and handing him the captain's armband, which Beckham passed on to another teammate.
The game reunited Beckham with former Man United teammates Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and, of course, Gary Neville and his younger brother, Phil. All were part of the '90s youth movement that set a foundation for the Red Devils' dominance of the English game most of the past two decades.
It also reunited Beckham with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, his mentor, and he told Sky Sports before the match that it was “an honor to be in the same dressing room as the manager again.”
Beckham finished his night by helping security corral a fan who had run onto the field, wrapping his arms around the young man and holding him until the day-glo jackets arrived.
Several first-team players, including scandal-plagued Giggs and goalscorer Wayne Rooney, started the game for Man United, but none went on for long. The Red Devils meet Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final Saturday at Wembley.