United have been lacking the leadership and passion on the field from Gary Neville since last March, and there are some games where this is desperately obvious. At times, United need to grind a result out and don’t quite have what it takes, that extra bit of fight Nev provides us with. Whilst Ryan Giggs is a wonderful player and has given so much to the club, he is no captain, and he doesn’t have what is needed to rally the team.
For months now we have been told that Neville is “two to three weeks” away from playing, but when the time comes, there is yet another set back. Neville played for the Reserves against Stockport at the beginning of the month, but this apparently did more harm than good, and his return date was shifted back again.
Since that latest delay in his recovery, he has yet to play, but was pencilled in to face Sunderland for the Reserves yesterday. The game was won 2-0 and he didn’t feature. The official line from the club was, “Gary has been training with the first team and will continue with that as opposed to playing with the reserves.”
Sir Alex Ferguson has previously stated that he wants Neville to have play in two or three games for the reserves before making a come back for the first team, but it now appears as though work on the training ground will do. It all seems pretty dodgy and desperate and I can’t help but feel we’re being kept in the dark slightly.
Fulham, Derby and Roma are the three games we have between now and the Liverpool game on December 16th and it appears as though Neville would be pushing it to play in even one of those. We can have some hope for the Roma match, considering it will be a run out for the Reserves and fringe players, with the possibility of Neville getting some well needed time on the pitch. Still, would that one game be enough to ease him in against the dippers?
At the end of Neville’s first season as captain, where he took over permanently from Roy Keane in the November, he said he would feel like a failure if United didn’t win the league under his captaincy. United managed that in his first full season as captain, but it now looking more and more likely that it was the first and last time time he will lift the trophy for us.
Of course we want him back, need him back to a certain extent, but if we’ve got another Solskjaer situation on our hands, the club needs to admit that sooner rather than later. Keane should have called it a day in the summer before his final season, as should Ole… there is no point clinging on to Neville and clinging on to the past if in reality, he just won’t make it back.
I hope I’m wrong and I would love to see Neville strutting out on to the pitch, proudly showing the Captain’s armband, and if there’s any game that can motivate him to return, it’s Liverpool at Anfield! If it isn’t to be, then Ferguson needs to start seriously thinking about who our next captain will be…