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Manchester United exclusive: Carlos Queiroz reveals "the truth" about the flying boot incident that injured David Beckham following Arsenal loss

Manchester United legend David Beckham
(Image credit: Getty)

As Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson was known for his hairdryer treatment in the dressing room after high profile defeats. The Scotsman would regularly scream in the faces of his players, especially after bitter losses to close rivals. 

There is perhaps no more famous example than the flying boot incident which took place following a 2-0 loss against fierce rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on February 15, 2003. 

Ryan Giggs missed an open goal with the scores level, but Beckham – who'd had several spats with Fergie owing to his celebrity relationship with Spice Girl Victoria Adams in preceding months – bore the brunt of the manager's ire. 

Ferguson raged at Beckham before kicking a discarded football boot in his direction. It struck Beckham above the left eye, which later required sitches.

"The next day the story was in the press," Fergie said in his 2003 autobiography, "In public an Alice band highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot. It was in those days that I told the board David had to go.

"My message would have been familiar to board members who knew me. The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go. I used to say, 'The moment the manager loses his authority, you don't have a club. The players will be running it, and then you're in trouble.'"

The other players in the dressing room were left stunned by the incident, with some having to restrain Beckham in the moments after he was struck. But Carlos Queiroz – Fergie's assistant manager at the time – believes his boss never intended to cause physical harm to United's No.7. 

"It’s time to establish the truth behind that story," said Queiroz, speaking exclusively as part of FourFourTwo magazine's Players Lounge series – you can order the latest mag here. "Someone once told me that if he had intended to hit Beckham with that boot, Sir Alex's left foot must be real quality! 

"I was there in the dressing room that day and, let's put things right, it was not a good shot because the boot first hit a table and only after went in Beckham’s direction. Sir Alex, I’m sorry but your left foot was not as good as you think!"

Beckham was subsequently sold to Real Madrid in the summer for £30m, with some of that money spent on bringing a young Cristiano Ronaldo to the club. Just think, if it weren't for a deflection off a dressing room table, Beckham may never have left the Premier League. 

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Ed McCambridge

Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.