Gerrard gave a glimpse of what happened that day when Roy Race existed in flesh and blood rather than on the page: a round of hopeless shots, each more hopeless than the last, filled with endless hope. Brutally effective that season, Liverpool were suddenly dulled by their captain’s belief that salvation is a one-man job.
Beckham’s performance against Greece contrasts with this, an example of the power of the Racist approach. His decisive action at the last moment, that picture-postcard free kick, looked like it had just popped out of the Melchester back catalogue. Here’s how England’s football history was shaped live on TV by a Big Man.
Still, there is an alternative reading of this game that at least one elite manager has specifically endorsed. Beckham’s positional indiscipline shook Britain’s balance to its core. Beckham has undermined his own team by giving up his special role. He played well that day, but as a function of that, the rest of the team didn’t play and couldn’t.
That’s conjecture of course, but England might not have needed Beckham to take a last-minute free kick to save a point if England hadn’t felt so compelled to be captain, to be heroes. In fact, he may have saved England from a problem he created himself.
This example is worth considering when considering Manchester United’s No. 7 successor as Beckham’s immediate and current successor.
There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time. It is undisputed that he has scored a number of important goals for Manchester United since returning to England. He scored the late goal beating Villarreal in the Champions League group stage match. He scored the late goal beating Atalanta with another goal. Just this week, he repeated the trick against the latter, with his 90-minute strike saving a point for United in Bergamo, Italy.
Ronaldo was later used as a solution to United’s problems as a plaster covering his team’s many flaws. And this interpretation is true by almost every measure.