It's a long pause, one of those times when silence communicates more than words ever could. Suddenly you realize, in this fleeting moment, how deeply Ferguson longs for the schoolboy Beckham, for a simpler era, for a time when his star wasn't spending his free hours with Jean Paul Gaultier and the Naked Chef.
"...his life changed when he met his wife, really," Ferguson finally continues. "She's in pop, and David got another image. Arid he's developed this fashion thing." (He says "fashion thing" in the bewildered way you'd expect to hear from, say, Vince Lombardi.) "I saw his transition to a different person. So long as it doesn't affect his football side, it doesn't bother me at all." Clearly in the past three months Ferguson has decided: The glitz has indeed affected Beckham's football side. You can't escape the field.
For his part, the boy who cried with joy for Man U as an 11-year-old wants to stay. "At the moment I'm contracted to Manchester United, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm happy with that," Beckham says. Yet he is keenly aware of one thing: If and when he leaves Man United this summer, it will be up to one man, a cranky but altogether charming Scotsman whose other kindred spirit, Yank Division, is John Wayne. "I've got all the Duke's movies," Ferguson says proudly. "I always pictured John Wayne as a man you could bring on if you needed a last-minute goal. Know what I mean? He's a battler. Always winning every fight, every shootout."
Beckham won't win this gunfight. But someday soon, when he's wearing the jersey of Real Madrid or AC Milan or some other fancy European team, he'll meet Ferguson again on the soccer field.
Sounds like the basis for another epic redemption story.