Date:2nd January 2011 at 11:00am
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For so long the right back spot at United had been a position that required little thought.

Since breaking into the United team in the 1994/1995 season Gary Neville made the right back spot his own. He was solid defensively as well as an invaluable asset going forward in tandem with David Beckham – doubling up, overlapping and using decoy runs to free up space for his best friend – the oldest Neville brother was a very good player.

Alex Ferguson was enthused with his young defender and spoke very highly of him, humorously stating:

“If he was an inch taller he’d be the best centre half in Britain. His father is 6ft 2in – I’d check the milkman.”

Despite his lack of height he  was still a stellar right back and one of the finest of his generation. He wasn’t as glamorous as Cafu or Zanetti because of their South American origins so I feel his contribution to the game is massively underrated by most. I wouldn’t be out of line in saying Neville isn’t the most talented of players but he has shown a dedication to his game that saw him become a top player, for example how he worked on his left foot to become a threat delivering the ball into the box with either foot is to be commended and an example younger players should look at.

After Roy Keane left the club in 2005 he became the club captain ( the first Manchester born captain since Dennis Viollet in the 60s) and rightly so. Mr Manchester United had shown a passion for the club as well as organisational skills that made him a cert and he grew into the role. For me his 06/07 season was one of his best but it was ended by injury in March and frankly it has been downhill since then.

Sadly these days the rare sight of his name on the team sheet now draws groans as well as feelings of anxiety. The injuries Neville has suffered with seriously damaged his ability to perform at the high level we have come to expect from him and it is because of this, that his performances are so easy to criticise. People often point to his role in Everton’s late comeback, against Stoke he was singled out for his performance and the same happened yesterday against West Brom as in both games he could have been sent off (his first yellow was disputable).

Neville’s decline has been one that has drawn jeers from quite a large number of people, he isn’t the most popular player outside the red part of Manchester (or even amongst United fans ourselves!), but if you look at England’s right back situation you begin to get an idea of how good he was. It is a position he held for years and once he dropped out of the England set up, a number of players have attempted to fill his position. The latest player Glen Johnson is oft criticised for his inability to actually defend despite his proficiency at getting forward and thus those who are ready to boo and jeer him at club level are found ruing his decline at international.

Personally I think he has had a great career, most clubs would kill for a Gary Neville and it’s because they don’t that he is often the source of away fan’s ire. Currently he is doing his legacy no favours, I have noticed many people having seemingly forgotten about all he has and was able to do when he wasn’t competing with injuries as well as others for the right back spot and are solely judging him on his current below par performances. It was a trend I thought was exclusive to us, the younger fans who may not have fully appreciated what he was able to do (I mean what kind of right back can’t do step overs and all that?) but some of the older generation too are ready to drive the nails into his coffin apparently with glee!

There is a reason that you don’t see a ton of 35 year old full backs, father time has caught up with Gary Neville and he is in a prime position for this to be exposed but whilst he isn’t doing himself any favours playing on, I think it is some what of a shame that his current performances are clouding some people’s memories of him.

Or as it was so elegantly put to me on Twitter today:

“These are his ‘Vegas Years’, his eating Mars bars, wearing a nappy years. Should be remembered as a hip swivelling hero!”


16 responses to “Neville decline is sad but the reaction of some is even sadder”

  1. marcus says:

    a top article g nevs is a living legend + ok yes his best days are well behind him now but the experience he provides is still vital 4 us i think the rise of young raf in the right back spot is no coincedence raf having stated how much he has learnt off him and g nevs is so in love with united he pisses red i would like 2 take this oppertunity 2 thank g nevs 4 all the years of joy he has given us gary neville is a red and he hates scousers will still be sang 4 a long time he is a united legend fact

  2. spoon says:

    Useful on the training ground and in the dressing room, not so much on the pitch any longer. And I am afraid he HAS to be judged on his current performances, it is the current team he is playing with so you can’t say “oh, well, he was excellent a few years ago when we had Beckham, so cut him some slack”.

    Rafael is clearly first pick now and we could do with another option at right-back as back-up, cos neither Gnev or O’Shea are good enough.

  3. Matt says:

    Regardless of how good he used to be, he is now a liability. He’s been fortunate not to be sent off against Stoke and WBA. Both games we could easily of lost had he seen red.

    • Chudi Onwuazor says:

      So does that give people the right to talk about him like what he has done for the club in the past has magically been sponged from the records?

      United fans were quick to chastise Chelsea for their treatment of Ray Wilkins but what I’m seeing from some in terms of Neville is worse. I’m not saying we should show blind faith, can see he isn’t the same player but some leeway should be given considering the circumstances (a major injury like the one he suffered at his age would have surely ended most careers and the fact he is a United legend)

      I would even go as far as sayingit is likely that he is continuing playing now not for personal gratification, rather because he feels he still has something to offer United such is his commitment!

      I just think more care and class should be shown by some of our fans instead of the ‘Neville is shit’ stuff that is being banded around.

  4. Pez says:

    tbh I thought last season was a good one for G.Nev but right now he is my 5th choice right back. It’s sad but we all knew this day would come.

  5. Foxy says:

    It’s not his performances that are in dispute – it’s the sad and unbelievable abuse he’s now getting from so called reds when he’s on the pitch. Fergie picks him, abuse him if you’ve got the balls.

  6. fakrul says:

    he should just retire…. and go in to coaching….

  7. carlnorth says:

    Let’s make things clear….G Neville has never been a great footballer. His touch has always been dodgy, he couldn’t pass to save his life and he’s never been able to beat a man. He was a solid defender in the main but the real reason everyone took him to their hearts was because he was United through and through. It took him years to develop and I guarantee had he not played for United he would have disappeared into obscurity. He had a couple of years where Becks supported him and he learned how to cross a ball. Now though he’s getting exposed and is a massive liability. The point is, you don’t leave somebady in the United team out of sentiment. G Neville should realise himself that he’s no longer good enough for United and remove himself. If was to do that, he’d always be remembered as a United stalwart. Carry on playing and I’m sure he’ll get more groans and frustrated shouts from the fans because, as much as we appreciate what he has done in the past, we don’t want him screwing things up for the future.

    • Chudi Onwuazor says:

      Can’t agree with all of that, you have completely dismissed him as a player. I don’t feel anyone should be in the team off of sentiment but he was played and should be offered more support then he has been!

  8. DforDerivative says:

    Can I just make it quite clear that – as the author of the tweet quoted above! – I am completely in agreement with the sentiments of this article. Red Nev has been a great, great servant for this club. For my money he should, in future, be remembered far more fondly than his best friend and should be thought of with the same respect as Bobby Charlton. He’s done more to serve the club than Beckham and been far more loyal.

    Gary Neville = Red Legend!

  9. Cattona says:

    I agree with you this time but have to mention that your retort that passing sideways and back pass is Barcelonia-esque in your defense of Gibson’s passing ability is so amusing that it resembles clutching at straws. I think Ferguson is playing a cruel joke on Neville.

  10. Oooodz says:

    Like many others have said. You can’t start him on the basis of past performances. If thats the case lets bring back beckham. If you’re hearing people finding the time to slag Neville off you have to start hanging around with a different crowd…