At the end of last season, I had Gary Neville on the phone for half an hour to discuss what went wrong, any highlights of the year and whether he had any plans on returning.
Having spoken to Neville about raising money for the Trafford Macmillan, he was keen to get involved in the RoM season review, with all the profits going to charity.
Scott: Last season was dreadful, but one highlight has obviously been seeing Giggs, Scholes, Butt and your brother on the staff. How did you feel seeing them in the dugout?
Gary: You could argue that, out of something that was pretty bad like losing your manager after ten months, it was a nice moment. I wouldn’t say it’s a positive but it was a real nice moment to watch them walk out against Norwich. Thinking about where they’ve come from and their love for the club, what the club means to them, well that’s a special moment that will never be taken away from us.
Scott: It was a great moment for the fans.
Gary: Yes, it lifted everyone on the day and brought a little bit of light at the end of a dark season.
Scott: Definitely. But didn’t you wish you were there with them? Do you have any plans to return to the club?
Gary: I did say three years ago when I left the club that it was a massive decision. The club is, after my family, the most important thing in my life, in terms of what it’s done for me and how I feel about it. But I also don’t want to rely on the club and live off the club.
I wanted to leave the club so I could experience more of the world. I’ve only ever been at United. I joined at the age of 11 at the Centre of Excellence and left at the age of 36. For 25 years of my life, Manchester United has almost consumed every waking moment, and that is a great thing. I’ve been so privileged.
But over the next 25 years of my life I want to experience different football by watching it in different countries, learning new skills, and at the moment I’m still on that journey of learning.
The coaches with England are great and I’ve been given the opportunity to work with a really good manager who I’m learning a lot from.
I would never say that I don’t want to go back to Manchester United because it is my heart and soul, but on the other hand, I want to make sure that if I do go back, it’s when I’ve learnt my trade. I’m still doing my coaching badges and I want to make sure that I’m well-rounded. I didn’t want to just fall in to the job at the end of my career.
Scott: So, if alongside that you are sticking with the telly for now, it must be hard at times, considering how you feel about United?
Gary: In a professional capacity, I work on the television, and for years I was handing out compliment after compliment. The club were fantastic, they’ve won trophies, and so I’ve been in a position where I’ve very rarely had to be critical of Manchester United, which is something I don’t want to do, because I feel the pain like the rest of you. But this season has been difficult because I’m in a professional capacity, doing a job as a pundit, so you’re working, you’re not a fan. I try, as much as possible, to be fair and say it as it is, as I would do for any other club.
This season, the fans themselves have been very critical of the club, so I’m not saying anything different to the fans. It’s just been a tough season all round.
Scott: I suppose then it’s a good note to finish on, going back to what Giggs said in the end of season speech, that the good times will return.
Gary: Everyone is in a rush these days, but I’m not, because I know the strength of my football club. The strength of my football club is everlasting. People say we’ll struggle to sign players, but people need to know that Manchester United is going nowhere. It will be there forever as one of the biggest clubs in the world. That’s not arrogance or complacency. There is the example of the club down the road, who haven’t won the league for 25 years, but I’ve seen the viewing figures. Manchester United and Liverpool are the two biggest clubs in the country when you look at the teams that want to watch them, and that’s with Liverpool going 25 years without the title.
Manchester United is a huge football club, with a massive amount of fans who love the club, and I’m not in a rush. My expectation is that we have to win the title every year, but when we don’t, you take it with dignity, and you move on.
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