Milan wrong to play David Beckham in central midfield says Sir Alex Ferguson

• 'I thought they would have played him wide right'
• 'You lose what he does best – his crossing'

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Milan made a tactical mistake by playing David Beckham in the centre of midfield in Manchester United's Champions League tie at San Siro earlier this week. Ferguson was "surprised" by Leonardo's selection and, though careful with his words, made it clear he did not believe his former player could be effective in a central position.

Beckham always craved a central midfield role during his time at Old Trafford but Ferguson preferred to use him on the right wing with only a few exceptions, most notably the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999 when Paul Scholes and Roy Keane were suspended.

Beckham played only a peripheral role in Tuesday's game after being selected ahead of Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso, and Ferguson, speaking on the American radio station Sirius, agreed when the co-presenter, Giorgio Chinaglia, said the former United player "cannot play in central midfield, he can only play on the wing".

"That's true," Ferguson replied. "I was surprised that they played David in central midfield; I thought that they'd have played him wide right."

The second presenter, Charlie Stillitano, remarked that playing Beckham in the centre meant "you lose what he does best more than anything". Ferguson agreed again: "Yeah, his crossing."

Ferguson was reflecting on his team ending "a bit of a hoodoo" by winning for the first time at San Siro but the United manager was not entirely happy with the 3-2 victory and made the unusual admission that some of his players seemed to have been afflicted by stage fright.

"For the first 15 minutes I was feeling in shock, really in shock, because the atmosphere was unbelievable. It certainly unnerved me and it unnerved my players. No matter how much experience you've got, you get into that cauldron of noise, and the response it had from the Milan players, and you're in there, and to get through that really did take a lot of courage."

Ferguson was so agitated during that early period he could be seen giving Jonny Evans what he now describes as "a gentle bit of advice" – which to ­everyone else looked like the infamous hairdryer treatment on full power.

"I think that our whole back four were going to get it," he said. "He [Evans] was unfortunate that he was the defender nearest to me. They had to compose themselves, that was the most important thing. And after that they settled and got very composed and got back to their normal game, and the result was different because of that."

One player to escape criticism was Wayne Rooney, whose two goals wonthe game for the Premier League champions.

"We talk about world-class playersand I think that's a misused quote a lot of the time but, when you see his performances of late, you know you're talking about a really world-class player," Ferguson said. "I always said to him that to be a world-class forward you need to have a really consistent goal performance. He is now on 25 goals and there are still 14 or 15 matches to go, maybe more depending on how we do in Europe. So it does put him in the frame of not just being a great player but also a great goal-scorer.

"We didn't use him properly probably last season. We probably exploited his eagerness and enthusiasm to play anywhere, but we know his strengths, we know where he's best and that's where we're using him this season."

United have increased security around the chief executive, David Gill, after supporters protesting against the Glazer family's ownership of the club visited his house while he was in Milan. Photographs of two fans holding a banner showing Gill's pre-takeover quote "debt is the road to ruin" have been posted on one of the supporters' websites.

In January 1998 Gill's house was daubed with graffiti branding him a 'Judas.' United have recently positioned increased security around the directors' entrance at Old Trafford.


Daniel Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
David Beckham unlikely to start at Old Trafford, says Alex Ferguson

The Manchester United manager said he does not expect to face his protégé as United defend a 3-2 first-leg lead over Milan

Daniel Taylor

10, Mar, 2010 @7:30 AM

Article image
Catalogue of first-half mistakes almost cost us, says Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson said Manchester United were 'fantastic' in the second half after a 'bad period' before half-time

Daniel Taylor at San Siro

17, Feb, 2010 @7:05 AM

Article image
Sir Alex Ferguson sidesteps the David Beckham question

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was reluctant to discuss his former player ahead of his team's match against Milan

Daniel Taylor

16, Feb, 2010 @7:00 AM

Article image
David Beckham refuses to put the boot into Sir Alex Ferguson

The former Manchester United midfielder is preparing to face his old club for the first time when Milan host the first leg of their Champions League showdown

Richard Williams in Milan

15, Feb, 2010 @10:00 PM

Article image
David Beckham calls former manager Sir Alex Ferguson 'a scary man'
David Beckham, preparing to return to Manchester United with Milan in the Champions League, says Sir Alex Ferguson was 'like a father figure'

Simon Burnton

09, Mar, 2010 @12:01 PM

Article image
Sir Alex Ferguson and Leonardo look ahead Manchester United v AC Milan

The Manchester United and AC Milan managers on David Beckham's return to Old Trafford in the Champions League

10, Mar, 2010 @12:10 PM

Article image
David Beckham has won over Milan but is in a battle to meet United
David Beckham is unsure if he will be selected to face his old club in the Champions League

Jamie Jackson

14, Feb, 2010 @12:10 AM

Article image
Sir Alex Ferguson still misses shouting at players, says David Beckham
David Beckham and his former manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, will be reunited in a charity match at Old Trafford on 14 November

Jamie Jackson

06, Oct, 2015 @4:04 PM

Article image
David Beckham v Manchester United

David Beckham features as Belle, Meryl Streep and Sir Alex Ferguson's pet chihuahua ahead of his Manchester United reunion

16, Feb, 2010 @12:06 AM

Article image
Carlo Ancelotti says no to José Mourinho mind games

Chelsea face an emotional reunion with their former manager José Mourinho in the Champions League

Dominic Fifield

18, Dec, 2009 @10:30 PM