CARSON -- David Beckham was talking about the first time -- the only time -- he has stepped on a field against Manchester United, the club where he grew up, first found his footing and became a star.
It was only 16 months or so ago, when he was on loan to AC Milan, and it was twice, three weeks apart, in each leg of a UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash. The second leg, in his old stamping grounds at United's Old Trafford, is the game that resonates with Beckham, and it has nothing to do with the game itself, a 4-0 Man United rout.
It was the experience of being the enemy at home.
“It was very emotional,” said Beckham, who was warmly received by Man United's fans that evening. “It was a real emotional moment to be back at Manchester United for the first time in seven years. It was an emotional time. I was glad I got that one out of the way.”
He'll revisit those passions in not quite a couple of weeks, at Major League Soccer's July 27 All-Star Game in Harrison, N.J., where MLS's best will battle Manchester United. And he's expecting something similar Saturday night when the Galaxy takes on Real Madrid -- another of Beckham's former clubs -- in a World Football Challenge friendly at the Coliseum.
Beckham has a keen sense of his sport's history and the importance of its greatest institutions, and he's humbled that he has had the fortune of playing for (and becoming part of the identity of) two of the world's legendary clubs. Taking them on stirs the emotions.
“I spent four amazing years at Real Madrid ...,” Beckham said earlier this week. “To be facing Real Madrid for the first time since I left, it's emotional. You get attached to a club, you get attached to people at a club.”
On Friday he spoke about his four seasons in Madrid, from 2003 through 2007 -- bridging his time with Manchester United with his Galaxy tenure -- and how exciting it will be to play against another club that resides deep within his heart.
“It's exciting for the fans to see great players like Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Iker [Casillas] and Kaká, the players they've got,” said Beckham, who missed last year's Galaxy-Real Madrid game while rehabilitating a torn Achilles' tendon. “It's going to be a competitive game, I'm sure. Real Madrid don't come over and Jose Mourinho doesn't put a team out that's going to [mess] around. It's going to be a good game.
“Personally, I've got a lot of great memories for playing for Real Madrid, and this is the first time I've played them since I left.”
The best of those memories?
“In the first year, playing with the likes of [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, [Luis] Figo -- all these great players. Being able to play with them in the same team. It doesn't get any better than that.”
Another is winning La Liga, as Spain's top league is known, just before joining the Galaxy in 2007. After a tumultuous campaign that saw him dropped from the first team -- forced to train on his own -- after signing a pre-agreement with the Galaxy, then win his way back and play a pivotal role in the title run after impressing manager Fabio Capello with his continued commitment and intensity as he trained alone.
“An incredible memory,” he puts it.
And this: “I think one of my great memories is I played a 40-yard pass to Zidane, and he volleyed it, and that's one of my great memories of playing in that team.”
The memories will flood back more deeply before the All-Star Game, Beckham's second since arriving four years ago.
“It's always going to be emotional playing against Manchester United,” he said. “I spent so many great years there and still consider Manchester United my home. ... A lot of great memories. Always going to be emotional.”
WORTH NOTING: Landon Donovan is uncertain for the Real Madrid game after twisting his ankle in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal loss to Seattle. He missed training Friday, instead working out in the gym downstairs. ... Beckham, on his selection to the All-Star First XI in a fan vote: “I have to say thank you for being picked in the All-Stars. It's an honor. It's recognition for the hard work that the players that are in the team have put in all year round.” ... Keeping up with rumors: Reports overseas have linked French striker Nicolas Anelka (from Chelsea, but only if a free transfer) and Turkish forward Nihat Kahveci (out of contract at Besiktas) with the Galaxy. The transfer window opened Friday.