David Beckham has always had some of the best scriptwriters in the business, but it would take a twist extraordinary even by his standards if he were to inspire AC Milan to the Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.
After dominating the early stages, Milan were well beaten in the first leg at San Siro, and were probably fortunate only to lose 3-2.
But now Beckham returns to Old Trafford for the first time since he left Manchester United seven years ago, and Milan’s best chance of progress seems to lie in his capacity for the dramatic.
For some time, he has given the impression of living life as though it were a film in which he has the lead role.
If the effect is at times solipsistic, the advantage is that each setback becomes to him merely an opportunity for redemption.
It might have been his sending-off against Argentina that put England out of the 1998 World Cup, but it was his performance against Greece that got them there four years later — and in Japan, of course, he finally annulled the stain of that red card with his penalty against Argentina in Sapporo.
Similarly defeat to Germany in Wembley’s last game was spectacularly avenged with a 5-1 win in Munich, and then at Euro 2004 Beckham himself saw victory over Croatia as a righting of the wrong of the defeat to Romania in Charleroi four years earlier, his logic seeming to be that both are nations in southeast Europe.
He was written off by Fabio Capello at Real Madrid, but fought his way back into the first team, and has continued to impress the England manager despite playing his football at LA Galaxy.
His grand finale probably has him scoring a vital goal in the World Cup, under the manager who had seemingly brought his meaningful career to an end.
Before that, though, there is the matter of the 34-year-old’s return to Old Trafford.
“If I play on Wednesday I won’t be frightened but I will be excited because I played in that stadium for many years and I know what it means to be a Manchester United player,” he said.
“I know what it means for opponents to play there.” Beckham also insisted his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson remained good, after the United manager suggested he had been wrongly deployed in a central role in the first leg.
“Alex Ferguson gives a lot of advice to players and he’s one of the best football coaches,” Beckham said.
“He protected his players but he made me understand when I was making a mistake.”