It was a big shock when Eric Steele was dismissed, in light of the great work he’d done to bring David de Gea out of his shell, and a decision that was not at all popular with the fans.
Rene Meulensteen, who Robin van Persie claimed was one of the best coaches in the world, then opted to snub David Moyes’ offer to become our assistant manager in favour of working alongside Guus Hiddink at Anzhi Makhachkala.
So, amidst all this disappointment, I was pleased to see that Phil Neville looks set to join our coaching team. He was photographed arriving at Carrington this morning. Whilst not having the experience other coaches might, he’s a Neville, so I think it’s a great decision to bring him on board. Not only is he another link with the Sir Alex Ferguson regime, with first hand experience of the standard required at United, he has a fantastic attitude, desire to achieve and as a red, will do everything he possibly can to help our club be a success. It also doesn’t harm his situation that he will obviously be in regular discussion with brother Gary Neville, whose insight and experience is valued by the England coaching set up, who will no doubt have a few ideas and opinions on what is needed at United.
David James recently sung the praises of Phil for his behaviour when he was on England duty.
“I remember sitting with Phil Neville for a chinwag and, like a typical footballer, ranting about a team-mate of mine who I found annoying at the time,” said James. “When I’d finished I expected Phil to reciprocate. But there was not a word. ‘What an absolute prick!’ I thought, red-faced after pouring my heart out only for him to remain tight-lipped. But later I concluded that his approach was an exemplary – and clever – way to carry yourself through a career in football. All the United players were the same, no one would ever say a bad thing about their team-mates. It all contributed to that sense of separation: there were United players, and then there was the rest of us. And I have little doubt that it was Ferguson himself who encouraged that segregation. For it was Ferguson who was the first manager to ban opposition players from entering the home players’ lounge for a drink after a game. Until then post-match mingling had been a tradition. But while Ferguson famously enjoys a glass of red with rival managers at Old Trafford, he was quick to ensure there was no such socialising among his players. At the time the football fraternity was horrified. There was this feeling of “Just who do you think you are?” Little did we know. Everyone keeps asking whether David Moyes can control the United dressing room, but United players police themselves. Ferguson created an environment in which players would control each other, so that he didn’t have to. The presence of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes was significant. Two players who had won more trophies than anyone else meant that there were authority figures in the team, whom younger players dared not question.”
A few years ago, Rio Ferdinand also commended the attitude of the Nevilles.
“Looking back, the Nevilles, people used to laugh at them, saying they were ‘so professional’ and this and that,” he said. “But they were good professionals at a young age. Look at the length of their careers now.”
Phil has spent the summer with the England U-21s and you imagine he is delighted to get the chance to return to United. I am happy to admit that I’m a sentimental bastard but I genuinely am chuffed to see him back at the club.