Gary Neville and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Neville: Homegrown core critical to United

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville believes it is crucial that the club retains a homegrown core within its first team.

The defender was part of the famous Class of '92 that emerged through the ranks together during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign and went on to celebrate unprecedented glory at home and abroad.

Ahead of playing under Sir Alex again in the Treble Reunion game against Bayern Munich on Sunday, the ex-England international spoke to us about his pride in seeing youngsters following the same path he trod back in the early 1990s.

Patrice Evra, Paul Pogba and Gary Neville.
Gary Neville at United's 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“It’s critical for United that we continue to do this,” he said. “One of the great things over the last few years, which have been difficult years at the club, is you still see a lot of homegrown representation out on the pitch.

”When I was in Paris [for the Champions League win over PSG], you think about Mason Greenwood, Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira – players like that. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard obviously weren’t playing that day but Marcus Rashford did. All these players have played this season and it is brilliant to see, particularly with the results that have been happening.

“Credit still goes to Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal as well, as they gave some of these players opportunities. Even in difficult times, the club continues to try to give opportunities to young players and promote players from the Academy. That isn’t always the case at other clubs.”

Unlike most of his colleagues, Neville admits the enormity of the achievement back in 1999 quickly sank in for him as he relishes the chance to meet up with his former colleagues at the weekend.

“It hit me straight away,” he recalled. “I think I knew from growing up as a fan, how much the European Cup and Champions League meant to the club in terms of its history. Going from 1958 and Matt Busby rebuilding his team up to 1968, you just can’t get away from that in terms of what is the legend of Manchester United.

”For us, to actually work for four or five years within the same group of players to keep falling short, in 1996, 1997 and 1998, and finally getting there in 1999, it was an incredible moment and the Treble is unprecedented to this day. The last couple of minutes and coming back through Deansgate on the open-top bus will live in our memories forever.

Gary Neville at Old Trafford in Michael Carrick's testimonial.
Gary Neville took part in Michael Carrick's testimonial at Old Trafford in 2017.

“I’ve played in a couple of these games over the last five or six years,” he added. “So, when you’re with the lads in the dressing room an hour before the game, it’s really special. I feels like you’re preparing for a game again, which is a bit of a thing that you miss when you’re obviously retired.

”Hopefully, we’ll have a drink and something to eat after the game together as well. But, most of all, we’ll raise money for the Foundation and give the fans a great day so everyone enjoys it.

Tickets for the Treble Reunion match, in aid of the Manchester United Foundation, are available to buy online or by calling 0161 868 800.

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