Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Whilst committed to Everton, I wonder if Philip Neville ever wonders what might have been had he stuck it out at United.
Just a couple of months after signing for Everton, Roy Keane walked out on Manchester United. The central midfield spot was filled by everyone from John O’Shea to Kieron Richardson, Ryan Giggs to Darren Fletcher, yet none of them made it their own.
That would have been Phil’s opportunity to step up to the plate, after some impressive displays, most notably in the 2-0 victory over Arsenal that ended their unbeaten run, in the centre of the park.
“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make,” he said after news broke he had signed for the Merseyside club. “I’ve spent 18 years of my life at the club and I would like to thank Sir Alex, all the players and the fans for their great support.”
He was 28-years-old and sensibly decided enough was enough. He had given so many years of his career to his boyhood club, winning six league titles, the European Cup, three FA Cups and the League Cup, and now it was time to go and get first team football.
Like his brother, Phil is a proper red, who lived the dream in getting so many games for Manchester United. I remember watching great footage from behind the goal of the European Cup final in 1999 after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goal went in, and Phil runs to the fans, celebrating like a nutcase. This wasn’t just the joy of playing for a Champions League winning side, rather the feeling that fans get when their side has just won the European Cup.
He did what was right for his career though, in moving to Everton, and has been a model professional about it.
United take on Phil’s new team today, hoping to secure three points to keep pressure on Chelsea and Liverpool (who hopefully both could be dropping points tomorrow when they play each other), with Tim Howard and Louis Saha making up the selection of players who used to be on our books. With Everton not in the running for the title, obviously Neville will always hope United win the league (don’t forget the goal he scored for us to help us on our way the season before last!), but there can be no doubt he will give 100% for Everton today.
However, do you think Neville regrets leaving when he did?