To chants of “Fergie sign him up”, David Beckham made a one-off return to the Manchester United team on Tuesday to mark the end of best friend Gary Neville’s career in a friendly against Juventus.
The Los Angeles Galaxy gave their star midfielder permission to miss the Major League Soccer match against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday to return to Old Trafford.
The former England captain reprised his partnership on the right flank with defender Neville that worked so well for club and country, although United lost 2-1 to Juventus.
Manuel Giandonato and Simone Pepe netted for the Serie A side after Wayne Rooney’s opener for the Premier League champions, who didn’t lose at home all season.
Beckham left Alex Ferguson’s United in 2003 to join Real Madrid, having graduated with Neville into the first team after winning the 1992 FA Youth Cup.
They both received the loudest cheers at Old Trafford, where in one late moment of drama Beckham helped to restrain a fan who invaded the pitch.
Beckham and Neville were also reunited with other members of the so-called “Fergie’s Fledglings”: Nicky Butt, who is now at Newcastle, Gary Neville’s brother Phil, who now captains Everton, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
Giggs, like Rooney, played 30 minutes despite both being set to start in the Champions League final against Barcelona on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Giggs was in action a day after being named in the British Parliament as the footballer at the centre of a legal gag order.
Neville left the pitch to a standing ovation after 83 minutes, embracing Beckham and drawing a close to a United career that saw him play 602 first-team games for his boyhood club.
Neville won the Champions League, eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cup titles, the Intercontinental Cup and the Club World Cup along the way. — AP