Much missed red hero and captain Gary Neville, who has been ‘2-3 weeks away from returning’ since last March, has looked back on last season as we head in to a new year.
Neville has today looked back on his first full season as United captain as a success, despite losing out on the European and FA Cups, thanks to our success in the Premiership.
“In general I’d say 2007 was a good year for United,” he said. “We were disappointed with losing the FA Cup final and going out in the Champions League but with us winning the league again I think you can say it’s been a very good year.”
He then went on to talk about our current season, of which he has contributing nothing as yet due to his reoccurring injury, stating he is happy with our current position. “There were smaller disappointments as well – losing against City, Bolton and West Ham, for example – but I think we’re starting 2008 in a good position,” he said. “Having said that, I don’t think we can afford to lose another three games this season – maybe only one or two now. But right now we’re still in contention for the title and that’s all you can ask for. We’d definitely have taken our current position at the start of 2007. And the most important games are still to come. The league is a little more open this season but it’s still the most exciting league to play in. Some of the technical quality in Spain is fantastic but in terms of excitement I think the Premier League is the best.”
Neville then describes the personal anguish of sitting out on the sidelines for so long. It is without doubt we have missed the personal fight he gives to our team, and on several occasions we have certainly been missing the leadership he provides us with. “On a personal level, I’ve missed playing football desperately,” he said. “Football’s what I do and it’s what I’ve been doing for years, so it’s very frustrating to be watching from the sidelines. Obviously I’ve had injuries before but never for this length of time. I hope in 2008 I get on the pitch a lot more often. It’s hard to say how far away from a return I am, to be honest. If you ask me today I’d say I’m close as I’ve trained with the team for two-and-a-half weeks now and I even felt like I could have been involved against Birmingham City on New Year’s Day. Obviously what’s going against me is the fact I haven’t played football for 10 months. And I think it could be difficult for me to get a match. The lads have some momentum going now, they’ve defended well and Wes has done extremely well at right back. There aren’t many opportunities for the manager to throw me into the side to ease me back in. If there was a Reserves game or a Carling Cup match tomorrow then I’d probably be playing but we have important league and FA Cup matches now and it would probably be a risk to play me in one of those since I haven’t been on the pitch for 10 months. I’m happy in the sense that I’m training with the team again and I’m feeling pretty good fitness-wise. What’s frustrating, however, is that I feel like I could play a match – unfortunately there just hasn’t been a Reserves game or friendly match for me to play in.”