David Beckham was the undisputed poster-boy of Manchester United and world football, in his tenure at the Manchester-based global giants. But tensions were rising between him and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, due to his growing fame. Beckham was being linked with other clubs throughout the 2002-03 season and matters finally got out of hand on 15th February, 2003, when after a 2-0 FA Cup loss against Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson kicked a football boot which struck David Beckham in the face.
Having lost in the FA Cup in February 2003, Ferguson was furious with his side’s performance, with Beckham being singled out in particular.
Ferguson, later revealed in his autobiography, the reason for him losing his temper was a lack of work-rate from David Beckham. Ferguson also accused Beckham of trading his Manchester United legacy for fame. Ferguson said, “In his final season with us, we were aware that David’s work-rate was dropping and we had heard rumours of a flirtation between Real Madrid and David’s camp. The main issue was that his application level had dropped from its traditionally stratospheric level. He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye. Of course, he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. ‘Sit down,’ I said. ‘You’ve let your team down. You can argue as much as you like.'”
Ferguson also revealed that it was during that moment when he decided that David Beckham had to leave the club. Ferguson further added, “The next day the story was in the press. In public, an Alice band highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot. It was in those days that I told the board David had to go. My message would have been familiar to board members who knew me. The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go. I used to say, ‘The moment the manager loses his authority, you don’t have a club. The players will be running it, and then you’re in trouble.'”
After the fiasco, Beckham was promptly sold to Real Madrid in the summer for €35m, bringing to an end, one of the most played-out stories in the media, in the history of football.