Gary Neville has spoken out on Sky Sports about the circumstances surrounding Carlos Tevez’s controversial exit to Manchester City in 2009, claiming that the Argentinian “downed tools” and “messed around” during his final months at Manchester United. He also spoke of how incredible he was alongside Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo during his first season, but had no time for his behaviour in his second campaign after Sir Alex Ferguson opted to bring Dimitar Berbatov to the club.
However, this isn’t the first time our former captain has had a run in with Tevez. Two months after he left for City we faced them in the derby. The Argentinian had been loved by our fans and for that reason he thought he would escape abuse for swapping red for blue. He was wrong. That sunny afternoon, his every touch was booed by the United fans, in a match we looked determined to throw away time and again. Three times we took the lead and on each occasion we allowed them back in to the game, whether it was through mistakes from Ben Foster or Rio Ferdinand. The final error, which saw Craig Bellamy score a last minute equaliser to make it 3-3, was unbearable to watch. We had totally dominated the game but looked to have given away the derby day bragging rights.
We obviously all know what happened next, with Michael Owen popping up with the winner in the 96th minute, and Neville couldn’t contain himself. After running on to the pitch to celebrate, he then immediately started warming up along the touchline, right in front of the distraught away end. Was he about to come on? United had already made three subs! He received a warning from the FA for his celebration.
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) May 13, 2020
Four months later, United faced City in the League Cup semi-final. Ahead of the game, Neville was asked about the decision to allow Tevez to leave the club.
The manager over the years has made many decisions with regard to players coming and going, and he has almost always been proved correct. I can’t disagree with his decision on Tevez. He was a good player for us but if the financial demands are too big then that’s just the way it goes. Other good players have left this club in the past; it’s not the first time it’s happened.
This wasn’t a particularly inflammatory statement but it rubbed Tevez up the wrong way. In the first leg of the semi, City won 2-1 at the Etihad with the Argentinian scoring both of their goals. He responded by gesturing at Neville, suggesting he talked too much, while our captain stuck up his middle finger in return. Neville was again warned by the FA.
Tevez wasn’t finished there though. Ahead of the second leg, he explained his gesture during the game at the Etihad.
My celebration was directed at Gary Neville. He acted like a complete boot-licker when he said I wasn’t worth £25m, just to suck up to the manager. I don’t know what the hell that idiot is talking about me for. I never said anything about him. I will never show a lack of respect towards anyone. Just as I was running off to celebrate the penalty I had scored, I came across Gary and I said to myself: ‘Shut your trap, keep quiet.’ I didn’t go overboard in my celebration and it was directed at Gary, not at Ferguson and not at the fans. I think he did the wrong thing because I was his team-mate and I never said anything bad about him. He was saying that Ferguson was right when he said that I wasn’t worth £25m, when he was saying this and that … I always respected Neville.
Presumably Neville’s comments had been lost in translation because he hadn’t said anything worthy of that sort of reaction. Tevez also spoke to the press in Argentina and wasn’t any kinder about his former captain there either.
I was at lunch with the players in the team hotel and all the papers were laid out. I read them – well, ‘read them’, obviously I don’t read [English]. My team-mates were asking what I thought. And I wondered to myself: what’s the tarado [moron] talking about me for when I never said anything about him, when there was never any [issue] with us. It was a lack of respect for a compañero [fellow footballer], aside of the fact that we had won a lot of things together.
You have to do your talking on the pitch. I don’t talk much in England – mainly because of the language. I don’t like to get involved in conflict. I’m happy because I know what I am. Thank God I had the chance to get revenge with City, although there is still the second leg to come.
In the second leg, United went 2-0 ahead thanks to Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, a scoreline that would put us through to the final. However, with less than 15 minutes left to play, Tevez pulled one back to City, putting them level on aggregate.
Having already beaten City once in injury time, United looked confident while our opponents appeared to be dreading the inevitable. Wayne Rooney popped up to make it 3-1 and knocked City out. We went on to beat Aston Villa in the final.
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) May 13, 2020
Neville has gone in to more detail today about how Tevez’s attitude changed towards the end of his second season with the club.
What annoyed me about Tevez was that he downed tools in his second season, starting sitting on the treatment bench, coming out late for training, started messing around, he was playing the club and I couldn’t stand that.
I was a ferocious Man United person on the inside, never thought of anything else in my life, only United every single day and the idea someone would come in to that changing room and not be at his best. I understood he had circumstances but his people were in his ear all the time, he was so led by his people and it was always going to come to an end like it did. I felt disappointed that, as a professional, he didn’t act the right way.
I don’t have a problem with players leaving the club, David Beckham left the club and Cristiano Ronaldo left the club, Ruud van Nistelrooy left the club, all great, great players but there was a way to leave the club when you were there. The problem I had with Tevez isn’t that he left to play for Manchester City, which is a problem for me, that wasn’t the main issue, it was the way it played out in those last few months, I didn’t like it.
If Gary thinks that was bad, imagine what he made of Tevez’s six month golfing holiday in Argentina when he was at City!