Gary and Phil Neville have just shy of one thousand Manchester United appearances, more trophies than Chelsea and Manchester City combined and more medals than the United States Olympic Swimming team. Although they may be disliked by most outside of the red half of Manchester (mostly Gary), they are true united legends both on and off the field.
When asked during an interview with FourFourTwo in 2003, Phil Neville revealed the reason ‘some fans’ have it in for the pair is down to the fact they nailed their colours to the mast – because they made their affection towards the club so public, it went against them outside of Old Trafford. For what it’s worth, Gary predictably didn’t seem to care too much. I am going to take a trip down memory lane and relive some of their greatest moments in the famous United shirt.
The Neville’s were a key part of the famous Class of 92’ who burst onto the scene after winning the FA Youth Cup that year. Yet even before that victory, rumours were circulating football that this was a crop to compare to the Busby Babes. They will tell you that two lads from Bury were just playing football with their mates for the club they loved. Gary captained the youth side that claimed the FA Youth Cup in his first season. He was later named club captain in 2005 after the departure of Roy Keane.
Probably the fondest memory United fans hold of Gary Neville is his celebration in front of visiting Liverpool fans at Old Trafford in January 2006. He was seen to run from the halfway line towards the opposing fans to celebrate the 90th-minute winning goal headed home by Rio Ferdinand. His actions were criticised by Liverpool and fellow Sky Sports colleague Jamie Carragher. Hearing the piercing, disturbing scouse voice of Carragher complain about the situation made it that much funnier. Gary was subsequently charged with improper conduct by the FA.
The Neville brothers became the first brothers to play together for England since the Charltons. Gary at the age of 20 and Phil making his debut on his 19th birthday. Playing for England at that age (or any age) is a massive thing in itself but doing so alongside your brother must have been something special. Phil’s tackle against Romania in 2000 after which England were knocked out of the tournament is self-proclaimed one of the worst moments in his life. But the way in which the United team, Fergie and the fans rallied around him showed the world that when you are a Manchester United player, you are looked after and it was an experience in which I believe made him a better player and more importantly, in my minimal knowledge through watching interviews and documentaries, a better person.
In 1998 the pair released their own book. ‘For Club and Country’ tells the story of the 1997-98 season through their eyes. If only they had waited for the season after! Unfortunately they weren’t to know the following season would go down as one of the greatest in the clubs history. One in which the Neville’s helped United to a historic treble as they lifted the Premier League, F.A Cup and Champions League. A feat that took the Class of 92’ into a realm of their own as United heroes. Whether it’s possible that six lads from the same academy will excel and be catapulted into a first team to then have similar success will happen again – for me that is a resounding no. The Neville’s were part of something very special at Manchester United and 988 appearances and 34 major trophies later, they will always be remembered for their loyalty, passion and desire to play for the club they loved.
Perhaps the most memorable, most important and most glorifying thing about the Neville brothers, and something which every fan loves no matter who they support, is that their dad is called Neville Neville.