Gary Neville’s injury got fairly tedious for the fans last season. He was forever on the verge of a comeback, yet at the last minute, there’d always be another set back. He’d get an odd game for the Reserves here and there, then pick up another injury.
Neville finally returned to the first team in our quarter final victory against Roma, as we booked our place in the semi-final. With 10 minutes to go he came on for Anderson, and despite taking a while to even get a touch of the ball, he was cheered every time it was in his position from that moment until the final whistle.
However, with just five league games to go, including matches against Arsenal and Chelsea, there just wasn’t the time to fully reintegrate him back in to the team. Wes Brown had enjoyed the best season of his United career so far, so there was no way he’d be dropped at such a crucial time in the season to allow Neville’s return to fitness to be completed.
Not much has been made of the fact United had the strength to win both the Premiership and Champions League without their captain, but it certainly was an impressive feat, and says a lot about the leadership we have from our other players on the pitch.
Having proved that we’re good enough in both the league and Europe without him, there have been serious questions over whether he will win his first team place back. With Chelsea at the weekend, it seems as though further questions will be asked of his position at United.
“I have a decision to make on Sunday,” Ferguson admitted yesterday. “I need to work out whether I go with Evans’ ability but lack of experience or whether I opt for Wes Brown’s experience and Gary (Neville) at full-back. Gary was only playing his second competitive match last night but he did very well. That will bring him on if I decide to play him on Sunday but Evans was excellent as well.”
Evans came closest to scoring for United on Wednesday night, seeing his diving header come back off the woodwork in the 82nd minute, and also put in a competent performance in the centre of midfield. Neville looked better than he did against Pompey and Zenit, certainly adding something to our attack, but his crossing fell short of the mark.
Against Chelsea, Neville’s experience would be useful, however, his lack of match time could see us at a disadvantage. In contrast, Evans seems a bright enough prospect and would be eager for the chance to prove himself and get the job done, although his inexperience holds him back.
Assuming Wes is to the play in the centre, would you rather Neville or Evans to start at right back?