Goal of the Day: Gary Neville v Lyon

Saturday 23 November 2019 10:00

Date: 23 November 2004, Champions League
Background: The group stages of United’s 2004/05 Champions League campaign are remembered for a seminal debut in Reds history: Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick against Fenerbahce. Many will also remember Ruud van Nistelrooy plundering all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Sparta Prague. But let’s not let those stellar moments blind us to another moment in the goalscoring sun – a rare one for Gary Neville.
The goal: The seventh and final goal of Neville’s United career (in his 452nd appearance, meaning he had another 150 blanks ahead of him) was no thing of beauty but was lashed home with satisfying gusto nonetheless. Alan Smith’s cross from the right caused mayhem in the Lyon box as the French tried to clear. Our no.2 had wandered goalwards sniffing like a striker, and sure enough the ball popped up invitingly – whereupon he simply booted it as hard as possible into the net via the keeper.
What happened next: Not to take away from Gary’s big moment, but this was really Sir Alex Ferguson’s day – his 1000th match as United manager. Ferguson finished 2004/05 empty-handed – but was on the cusp of yet another golden run of trophy-laden seasons.
Reaction: “We were about to take him off. His brother has a virus and Gary was complaining about the same symptoms. He said: 'Give me one more minute’… and then he scored." Ferguson reveals that the goal almost never happened.