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Alex Ferguson: David Beckham's Manchester United Career Ended Over Desire For Fame

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BECKHAM MANCHESTER UNITED
Manchester United's David Beckham, right, celebrates his goal against Zalaegerszeg of Hungary with teammate Philip Neville, left, during their UEFA Champions League qualifying match in Manchester, England on Aug. 27, 2002. | AP

LONDON -- LONDON (AP) — Alex Ferguson criticizes David Beckham's preoccupation with fame in his new autobiography.

At Manchester United, Ferguson developed Beckham into one of the world's most recognizable athletes. But the midfielder left United in 2003 for Real Madrid under a cloud after his relationship with the manager broke down.

"David was the only player I managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game," Ferguson writes in the book, which will be released Thursday. "I felt uncomfortable with the celebrity aspect of his life."

By moving to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 after four years at Madrid, Ferguson said, Beckham "surrendered a part of his career."

During the 2002-03 season, Ferguson was concerned that Beckham's "application level had dropped" and his "work-rate was dropping."

There was no turning back after a February 2003 match against Arsenal. Ferguson was unhappy that Beckham neglected to track back when Arsenal scored its second goal in a 2-0 win.

"As usual, with David at that time, he was dismissive of my criticism," Ferguson wrote. "It's possible that he was starting to think he was no longer needed to track back and chase."

In the locker room, Ferguson recalls Beckham swearing nearby.

"I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson recalled. "Of course he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him."

After that, Ferguson told the board that Beckham had to leave.

"The big problem for me — and I'm a football man — he fell in love with (former Spice Girl) Victoria and that changed everything," Ferguson said Tuesday at his book launch.

In the book, Ferguson details Beckham's insubordination. He once refused to remove a hat at a team dinner.

By that time, Ferguson said, Beckham had been "swallowed up" by publicity agents.

"David thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson," Ferguson wrote. "You cannot have a player taking over the dressing room. Many tried. ... The focus of authority at Manchester United is the manager's office. That was the death knell for him."

Beckham was sold to Real Madrid in 2003 and made the surprise move away from Europe to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.

"I imagine he also had his eyes on Hollywood and the impact it would have on the next phase of his career," Ferguson wrote. "There was no footballing reason to go to America."

Beckham ended his stint in LA last year, then spent five months at Paris Saint-Germain before retiring.

"He is an icon to every kid in the world," Ferguson said Tuesday, emphasizing that he admired Beckham.

Ferguson retired in May, bringing an end to the most successful managerial career in British soccer history. He won 38 trophies at United over 26 years, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League titles.

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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