MANCHESTER: England captain David Beckham claimed on Tuesday his dressing room bust-up with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was all in the past.
“The dressing room incident was just one of those things – it’s all in the past now,” said Beckham in his first statement on the incident that followed United’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal on Saturday.
Ferguson was reported to have unleashed a tirade against Beckham, swearing at the top of his voice before kicking a boot across the Old Trafford dressing room which struck Beckham just above the left eye.
Earlier the 61-year-old coach had tried to laugh off what he described as a “freakish incident”.
“Whatever happens in the dressing room is sacrosanct,” he told reporters at a press conference ahead of Manchester’s Champions League match against Italian giants Juventus on Wednesday.
“There’s no way I could betray the trust of the players. It’s 100 percent loyalty. It can never be anything less than that.
“(It was) an incident that was freakish. If I tried it a hundred times, a million times it wouldn’t happen again. If it did I would carry on playing.”
Ferguson’s remarks fell short of an apology.
The fiery manager was reported to have accused Beckham of ‘cocking-up as a footballer’ in the four-letter tirade.
But he denied the wound was as serious as reported.
“David did not have two stitches. It was a graze. It was treated by the doctor and we move on.”
He refused to answer any more questions but did confirm that Beckham, who had picked up a calf strain against Arsenal as well as his post-match scar, would be fit to face Juventus yesterday.
Despite their respective statements the incident could yet undermine United’s whole season, as they bid for a treble of Premiership, League Cup and Champions League.
Already AC Milan and Real Madrid have alerted agents to seek possible talks with the superstar, who still has two and half years left on his £90,000 (US$150,000) a week contract, the Sun newspaper, which broke the story, reported.
The showdown brought to a head a simmering unease between Ferguson and Beckham, which stretches back nearly four years.
Ferguson has always been irritated by Beckham’s celebrity status and has grown tired of the circus surrounding him and his pop star wife Victoria.
Far from blaming the media for the attention Beckham is given, he believes the player is at fault for bringing the pressure on himself.
Beckham’s former United teammate, Lazio defender Jaap Stam said he had experienced the Ferguson treatment at first hand.
“He came in at half-time during a match and was so angry that he kicked one of the treatment tables over, which came crashing down near me,” Stam recalled.
The Dutch star added: “He is not a man who is able to hide his emotions and he is not a manager who accepts things when he believes they are not right.
“And if I was a United fan I would be relieved to hear this story because at least it proves that Mr Ferguson is still hungry for results and success. United fans should be more worried the day they hear he no longer cares enough to get angry or shout at the players.
“The Old Trafford dressing room would not be the same place without the threat of him losing it.”
Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger advised Ferguson to stay cool in future.
“The biggest problem is handling the disappointment and, of course, you get frustrated when you lose. The important thing in football is to realise that when a game is over, it’s over. You start to think about the next match straight away,” he said.
But League Managers Association Chief Executive John Barnwell backed Ferguson.
“We’re talking here of a manager who has had three decades in this country of proven success, and he appears to still have the desire to continue that success,” Barnwell said.
Bookmakers William Hill quoted Beckham at 4-7 to leave Manchester with Ferguson at 5-4 to quit first.
Celtic boss Martin O’Neill is favourite to take over the Old Trafford hot seat at 7-4, with England boss Sven Goran Eriksson at 7-2.
Hills is also offering odds of 100-1 on Beckham leaving football entirely – to join the re-formed Spice Girls, with whom his wife made her name. – AFP