Sir Alex Ferguson claims David Beckham’s focus changed from football to the celebrity lifestyle when he married wife Victoria.
Ferguson revealed in the same interview with US TV network PBS on Tuesday night that he was offered a chance to become Chelsea boss when Roman Abramovich arrived, but turned it down.
And, in a transcript of the PBS interview published by The Times, the Scot added that his relationship with Beckham changed after he married Victoria, a former Spice Girl, causing United to eventually sell him to Real Madrid.
“As a young kid when I got him at 12 years of age his great desire was [to play] some of the best football,'' Ferguson said. “He was a fantastic trainer, practised all the time. At night-time he would come by with the schoolboys and practise with them. And he was in that collection.
“And then of course, his life changed, when he married the girl from The Spice Girls, yeah. And his focus changed.
“He got drawn into that celebrity status, you know? And for me, I'm a football man. I'm a football man. He lost the focus. And when we sold him to Real Madrid, he did well.''
Ferguson also paid tribute to the way in which Beckham reinvented himself when he left Old Trafford, insisting that he was somewhat shocked by his decision to carry on his career in Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“I couldn't believe that he goes to LA Galaxy. I couldn't believe that. I couldn't understand that. I would never do that, you know?” he added. “If I was going to go, I would be making sure he would go to the best, and Real Madrid was the best, I would say, and United.
“But he reinvented himself. He goes and plays for the English national team for a couple more years. He goes and plays for AC Milan [in the] European Cup. He's unbelievable. He really is -- and good, well done to him. You can't argue with the status he has in life.''
Ending his career at the age of 38 with Paris St Germain, Beckham also became England's most-capped outfield player and Fergie admits that, despite his global celebrity status, he would have preferred to have seen him succeed more on the pitch.
“Well, for me, it would have pleased me more to see him be a great, great player, you know?'' Ferguson added. “As I said, I'm a football man. But how can I argue with life? He's an icon for young people... and represents himself the proper way. And I say well done.
“Amazing boy, yeah. I mean, how he has created himself. He's fantastic. Wonderful boy.''
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.