David Beckham has accepted he made mistakes in his time at Manchester United that led to a breakdown in relations with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Beckham progressed from the youth ranks to become one of the biggest stars at Old Trafford but was sold by Ferguson to Real Madrid in 2003.
Beckham accepts that his celebrity status and marriage to Spice Girl Victoria gave Ferguson cause to doubt his professionalism.
Speaking about his life and career on BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs, Beckham said: “At 41 I’d like to think that I’m more grown-up and a little wiser than when I was 21.
“There were certain decisions that I made back then that were wrong decisions and I can see why the manager got so frustrated by certain things.
“There was one occasion when Victoria was in Ireland, I had a day off so I flew over to Ireland. I didn’t feel I needed to tell the manager what I was doing.
“As I was coming back at 6am for training, I was sat in the lounge and the manager walked in. He didn’t talk to me. I knew I was in a little bit of trouble.
“I can understand the manager then thinking, ‘Okay, he’s not looking after his body,’ or ‘he’s not resting as he should do’. All the manager ever wanted was the best for the team, the best for the club and the best for the individual.”
Beckham and Ferguson’s most public falling-out came in February 2003 when, after a defeat by Arsenal, Ferguson kicked a boot at Beckham that left him with a cut above the eye.
Beckham described it as a “freak accident”, adding: “He could never do it again, because I have seen him in training.”
But it was Ferguson who provided Beckham with much-needed reassurance following his sending-off during England’s World Cup quarter-final loss to Argentina in 1998.
“The first person to call me after that game was Sir Alex Ferguson,” said the former England captain. “He said, ‘Son, get back to Manchester, you’ll be fine’. And that gave me strength to actually get through probably the toughest time I’ve been through in my life.
“My wife had told me we were expecting our first child so it should have been a happy time and it wasn’t. I look back at it and it was such a difficult time, not just for myself, because I knew once I was back in Manchester, I was protected.
“I had the support of the fans, every single time I walked up to take a corner the whole stadium stood up and clapped and sang my name. I get emotional talking about it.
“But it was more difficult for my grandparents, they were being door-stepped by journalists who were saying things I don’t want my grandparents hearing about their grandson. The only thing I could do to protect my family was to say don’t open the door to these people.”
Beckham was part of the famous class of ’92 at United alongside the likes of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
“At the time we never really felt like there was something so special going on,” he revealed. “We had a really tough youth team manager, Eric Harrison, that kept us all in place, and then obviously we had Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We all had jobs. I cleaned eight of the first-team players’ boots, Nicky Butt cleaned the showers, Paul Scholes cleaned the toilets and the changing rooms.
“Gary Neville and Phil would be picking the dirty kit up, but at the time, the class of ’92, we didn’t think about anything other than trying to keep our place in the team and winning the youth cup if we could.”
Beckham has revealed young players were forced to perform “a funny dance” in front of senior professionals as a punishment for stepping out of line.
Asked about the current child sex abuse scandal in football, he said: “There was never anything at Manchester United and it is disgraceful what has gone on and there has to be something done about it.
“The closest part would have been certain professionals that if we had gone out of line they would have made us do a funny dance in the middle of the changing room in front of the professionals, in front of our heroes at the time.”
Beckham’s eight disc choices included ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ by Ella Fitzgerald, ‘I Am The Resurrection’ by the Stone Roses and ‘Si Tu Vois Ma Mere’ by Sidney Bechet.
His England caps were his luxury item and his book was the cookery book ‘On Fire’ by Francis Mallmann.