Manchester: England captain David Beckham will enjoy an emotional return to his spiritual home when he leads his country out against Liechtenstein at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The former Manchester United midfielder, who joined Spanish champions Real Madrid for $37.86 million in July, has not set foot on the pitch since a post-match kick-around with his son Brooklyn last May.
But Old Trafford holds precious memories for the 28-year-old, and not just for the many trophies he won during his nine years as a first-team regular there.
“I’ve moved on... I’m enjoying the new experience of playing in a different country, in a different league with different players,” said Beckham before England’s 2-1 victory over Macedonia in their Euro 2004 qualifier on Saturday.
“But I was happy playing with the players at Manchester United. They’re my friends and I regarded them as my family,” added the England captain.
The Old Trafford ground is also the scene of his greatest footballing triumph two years ago, when he almost single-handedly got England through to the World Cup finals with an all-action display in a 2-2 draw with Greece.
While his teammates flagged, Beckham kept his nerve to score a stunning injury-time goal from a free-kick to earn the point England needed to top their group as Germany failed to beat Finland.
It was a moment that elevated Beckham to god-like status among England supporters and enhanced his standing on the world stage, although it grated with former manager Alex Ferguson.