David Beckham still gets goosebumps twenty years on from Old Trafford heroics that spared England’s blushes vs Greece

DAVID BECKHAM is hardly short of memorable moments.

There was, of course, THAT wonder strike from the halfway line for Manchester United against Wimbledon back in 1996.

David Beckham's sensational late free-kick against Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup was arguably the best moment of his career


David Beckham’s sensational late free-kick against Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup was arguably the best moment of his careerCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
The scenes following the strike were ones of relief and jubilation


The scenes following the strike were ones of relief and jubilationCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd


Or his iconic corner at the Nou Camp in the Champions League final in 1999. 

Not forgetting winning the title with Real Madrid on his final game in Spain.

A 21-year career —  including 719 club appearances and 129 goals — for  United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. 

Eight major league titles across three countries and two more in the MLS.

It is a surprise Golden Balls has enough space in his head in retirement to focus on his club Inter Miami.

Yet as Beckham, 46, continues to make a name for himself in club ownership, fashion, with his charitable work and after a brief acting career, one moment stands out.


One that remains as clear today as the second it happened.

One that continues to act as a reminder of redemption and rebirth for Beckham in a period of his life that almost broke him.

That moment happened 20 years ago on Wednesday, at Old Trafford of all places. A defining World Cup qualifier against Greece on October 6, 2001 with England’s ticket to South Korea and Japan under serious threat as they trailed 2-1.

It all came down to one free-kick in injury time.

Reliving the drama today, Beckham said: “I watch clips back and there’s one fan looking really worried.

“There’s another with their head in their hands in the old red England shirt.

“Then I can hear drums. I could hear that on the day, the sound of the band.

“But then, all of a sudden, I remember stepping back and then it went silent, for me anyway. And then I hear the reaction of the fans.

“It was obviously quite a few years ago now — but it’s still so clear to me.

“Throughout my career, there are certain moments that have stayed with me and there’s a real clarity to every thought I have from that day and that moment.

Beckham avenged his red card at the 1998 World Cup with the special free-kick


Beckham avenged his red card at the 1998 World Cup with the special free-kickCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

“And it’s probably the clearest moment that I have in my memory of my football career and it was probably one of the most special moments.

“To represent my country, to captain my country, to score a goal that meant so much to our country and the fans… and to do it all at Old Trafford. For me, it couldn’t have been any more perfect.”

The game itself was anything but perfect, until the historic intervention of Beckham, then aged 26.

It was a match full of permutations from the off, thanks to England’s poor start to their qualification campaign.

The Three Lions gained just one point from their opening two games, with manager Kevin Keegan resigning in between.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s arrival sparked a resurgence, including the unforgettable 5-1 win over Germany in Munich. But by the time they welcomed the Greeks to Manchester for their final group game, the stakes could not have been higher.

England needed to match Germany’s result against Finland — which ended up being goalless — or would face a play-off against Ukraine to reach the finals.

It started badly. Angelos Charisteas grabbed the opener for the visitors after 36 minutes and England only equalised midway through the second half through substitute Teddy Sheringham.

Then  Eriksson’s defence was torn apart just a minute later as Demis Nikolaidis looked to have broken all English hearts.

And then came the moment that Beckham can still picture, step by step, to this day.

Sheringham — who had famously flicked on Beckham’s corner to allow Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to score the winner in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich two years earlier — was involved once more.

Three years earlier, Beckham had been the most hated man in the country after his petulant red card in the World Cup defeat by Argentina.

Beckham saw red as England were knocked out of the 1998 World Cup by Argentina


Beckham saw red as England were knocked out of the 1998 World Cup by ArgentinaCredit: Reuters

Shirts had been burned and effigies hung from lamp posts.

But all that was about to be forgotten in one glorious moment.

Beckham’s free-kick swung from right to left, from more than 30 yards out, and into the top corner in a way that appeared to ignore the laws of physics.

As it hit the net, stunned commentator Gary Bloom yelled: “I don’t believe it… give that man a knighthood!”

Looking back on the footage, Beckham added: “There are so many angles that I love seeing the goal from.

“Obviously, the one from right behind me where you could see the ball was going in from the moment it left my foot, to the celebration. One of my favourite things to rewatch is the crowd’s reaction as soon as the ball hits the net — the way the England fans just erupted.

“I’ve actually spoken to my parents so many times about it.

“My mum says the moment that ball went in, she said people were in tears around them. That really makes it even more special.

“It’s an obvious thing to say, but I get goosebumps when I think about it, talk about it, watch it.

“There are certain moments throughout your football career that you always hope you are going to have. Every athlete wants that moment.

“It’s emotional to know that I had been part of something that was so special, not just for my career.

“It was more the reactions and emotion around the game with the fans, what it meant, and the fact that one of my goals did that.

“It makes me realise that all the hard work of practicing and playing in games, not playing in games, getting up in the early hours of the morning to travel to Manchester to watch games with my dad.

“It was all worth it because of that particular moment.”

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