With Gary Neville’s comeback date postponed time and again, whilst talk of his retirement was rife, I had a ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude to whether he would play for the first team again. As he approached the touchline last night, ready to be subbed on against Roma, I was made up.
The effect his absence has had on the team is unmeasurable, and whilst he’s never been the most gifted player, whatever he may lack in ability he certainly makes up for in passion for the club and desire to win. For him to finally make his return to the team at such a crucial time in the season is brilliant for United. The extra fight and determination he will inject in to the team, which will certainly be at an all time high after missing out on so much football, could prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle where United’s success this season is concerned.
It took Neville all of five minutes to get his first touch of the ball after oddly being slotted in as a central midfielder, and he finally did, it was met with a rapturous cheer from the United faithful. In fact, every touch he had of the ball in the final 15 minutes of the game was cheered, the crowd so happy to see the captain back where he belongs.
Neville has today thanked the United fans, whilst admitting it has been a rather embarrassing period for him after the delayed return from injury.
“The fans have always been great to me and they were tonight,” Neville told MUTV. “Missing the end of last season was bad. I missed the Champions League quarters and semis, the Championship run-in and the FA Cup Final, so it’s good to be back to help the team now. People kept asking me when I was coming back and it was a bit embarrassing. I’d try and give them a date and then it wouldn’t materialise. But the fans have always supported me and gave me a good reception when I came on.”
With Vidic still recovering from injury, it is possible Neville will take up the right back position against Arsenal at the weekend, with Wes Brown playing alongside Rio Ferdinand in the middle. Alternatively, Fergie might opt to keep Wes at right back, trusting Pique with the central defensive role, after the praise he lavished on the Spanish defender following his performance at the Riverside, as well the solid 90 minute performance he put in against Roma last night.
How much game time do you think Neville will get between now and the end of the season?