Manchester United stalwart Gary Neville’s latest public outburst will have done little to enhance the defender’s reputation amongst Manchester City and Liverpool supporters. Speaking to MUTV, Neville expressed his “hatred” for Liverpool while condemning neighbours Manchester City for “throwing a load of money at it” in an attempt to gain success. Neville’s views on Manchester United’s rivals are well-known through a number of controversial high-profile incidents.
He found himself in hot water with the FA and the police in 2006 following his provocative celebration of Manchester United’s winning goal against Liverpool where he ran the length of the Old Trafford pitch to celebrate wildly in front of the travelling support. He was charged with improper conduct by the FA but Neville didn’t seem to have learnt his lesson. Last season saw Neville repeat his inflammatory celebrations by doing exactly the same thing in front of the Manchester City fans after Michael Owen sealed a last-gasp winner for United.
However, Neville’s most recent comments, coming at a time when there is no need to stir up any controversy are an indication that Neville’s United career is on the wane.
The need to express such animosity in such a public arena is a cry for attention from a player who has ceased to become relevant at Manchester United. Neville’s loyalty and service to Manchester United should be applauded but this does little to hide the fact that Neville is way past his prime and is simply not up to the calibre of a team that has aspirations on regaining the title that they lost to Chelsea last season.
Neville was hopelessly out of his depth on Saturday against Everton as United surrendered a two-goal cushion to draw with Everton 3-3 in injury time. He looked sluggish against Everton’s effervescent duo of Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman and found himself out of position on many occasions as Everton looked to attack down United’s right. Their tactics paid off as both of Everton’s injury time goals came from crosses from Everton’s left against Neville who failed to stop the ball being delivered into the United penalty box.
Unlike Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes who have blossomed in their advancing years, Neville has seemingly stagnated. Since the beginning of the season, John O’Shea has played at right-back for Manchester United and he has done an excellent job. Off the back of Neville’s indifferent performance on Saturday, there is little evidence to suggest that Neville would be a better bet than O’Shea to play at right-back now that Neville has recovered from injury. To rub further salt in the wound, Neville was denied the captain’s armband on Saturday despite being club captain. The honour was given to Nemanja Vidic who was the one bright spot in a defence that was uncharacteristically porous.
Neville’s decline presents an opportunity for the younger players at Old Trafford to push for a starting berth. Players such as Rafael and Richie De Laet are hot prospects at United and will be eager for a chance to prove themselves worthy of playing for the club.
To be fair, Neville has indicated that he is aware that this season could possibly be his last in United colours:
“Two years ago I thought it would be my last season. Last year I felt the same. I recognise this one could be as well. I am on a one-year contract. If I don’t perform or the club don’t want me anymore, I will be gone. That is life. In the 19 years I have been here, it has happened to better players.”
If this season does prove to be his last, Neville will want to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. He needs to make sure he finds the headlines for his performances on the pitch rather than his words off it.
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