Alex Ferguson says that Gary Neville and David Beckham were both “average footballers” who became “wonderful”.
Neville and Beckham, both graduates from Manchester United’s famed ‘Class of ’92’, enjoyed stellar careers at Old Trafford after emerging from the club’s youth system under Ferguson.
Former England right-back Neville played for the club from 1994 to 2011, winning eight Premier Leagues and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.
Beckham made his professional debut in 1992, and became a regular fixture in the first team until his departure for Real Madrid in 2003.
Speaking at the Dublin Convention Centre during at an event for golfer Rory McIlroy’s Rory Foundation, Ferguson explained how the two progressed from “average footballers” to world stars.
“During my time at Manchester United I was lucky enough to have a lot of people who put in countless extra hours to get better,” Ferguson said. “Gary Neville turned himself from an average footballer into a wonderful one because of his work ethic, as did David Beckham.”
Ferguson believes the work ethic of Eric Cantona, who joined the club in 1992 from Leeds and inspired the club’s first four Premier League titles, was a heavy influence for the younger players.
“I remember Eric’s first day and after the training session had finished he asked for a goalkeeper, two players from the junior team who were still there, and a few footballs,” Ferguson said. “I said to him what did he need those for and he said he wanted to practice.
“When word got back to the other players, one or two more turned up the next day for an extra session and so the number grew. That was all because of Cantona’s work ethic and influence.