Beckham2When they stick to actual analysis as opposed to courting controversy for the sake of it, RTÉ soccer’s old reliables are still simply unplayable.

Sky Sports tried their utmost to turn last week’s AC Milan-Man U clash into The David Beckham Show.

Having given it the big build-up beforehand, after the game their annoyingly-cloying reporter Geoff Shreeves asked Fergie (apologies, I mean, “Sir Alex”) if the Italians’ first goal had been unavoidable due to “the quality of the Beckham delivery.”

Fergie looked like he hadn’t a clue what he was on about (and Geoff doesn’t have an iota a lot of the time). Huh? It was a wicked deflection, end of, he snarled.

In reviewing the goal, Johnny Giles said in passing that it was a bad ball in from Beckham, which it was, struck smack into an area covered by three United defenders, with Patrice Evra making a hash of what should have been a routine clearance.

But salient truths weren’t going to get in the way of Sky’s slant: a desperate search for any evidence that no-one bends it like Beckham, even at 35.

Cue smug smile from Richard Keys as they cut back to himself, Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness in the clearly freezing-cold studio. Ferguson, he evinced, wasn’t conceding anything about — here we go again — “the quality of the Beckham free-kick”; implying that Alex’s residual antipathy towards his once-prized protégé prevented him from giving credit where Sky (and Sky only) felt it was due.

On RTÉ, Giles identified Beckham’s contribution as negligible before his substitution midway through the second half: staying deep, playing a few passes into midfield, little else. Apart, of course, from being a central figure in the opening goal celebrations. He can play ’til he’s 50 at that rate, suggested Johnny, striking fear into our hearts.

The only cutting edge Beckham possesses nowadays is his beard trimmer. That blunt reality won’t deter Sky from making the return leg out to be a hero’s homecoming. But they’re fooling no-one, only themselves. Beckham was a very good player once, he’s still decent over deadballs (as is Rivelino probably), but his value nowadays is strictly of the notoriety variety. Give me Paul Scholes’ left shin any day.