Treble Icons: Phil Neville
While our Treble-winning campaign was built on free-flowing, attacking football, sometimes the games in that 1998/99 season were tight, nervy affairs. In those instances there were few more dependable players than Phil Neville.
Following his disappointment at being left out of Glenn Hoddle’s England squad for the 1998 World Cup, the Bury-born defender began the new season with the air of a man determined to prove his doubters wrong. Whether we were trailing 1-0 or cruising with a five-goal lead, he always gave his all.
That he certainly did, with a string of excellent performances. Aged only 21 at the start of the campaign, Neville was nonetheless asked to fulfil a number of different roles during the campaign. One week, Phil could be deputising for club legend Denis Irwin at left-back, the next he could be replacing his brother Gary at right-back or operating as a defensive midfielder.
Neville even bagged a rare goal, when he grabbed the third in our 5-0 win against Brondby in the Champions League.
Our no.12 put in perhaps his best performance of the season at Wembley, as part of a back four which didn’t give Newcastle United a sniff in the FA Cup final.
Yet, his most-telling single contribution to our Treble win was the inch-perfect cross he delivered against title-race rivals Arsenal in February, which fell perfectly for the onrushing Andy Cole to head home an equaliser.
The Reds had trailed 1-0 in that game at Old Trafford, and Phil’s cross ultimately helped to prevent a three-point swing in the Premier League table. Considering United ended the campaign just a single point ahead of the Gunners, that moment was undoubtedly a significant one.
United captain Roy Keane...
"As the season progressed I began to play the best football of my life. That had much to do with the strength of the team around me. In what was becoming a squad game, Phil Neville, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham were all major assets when called upon."
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE NOU CAMP?
Few players can claim to be a legend at two Premier League clubs, but Phil Neville is an exception to the rule.
He played his 386th and final game for United in May 2005, in a 2-1 win against Southampton. In the subsequent summer, Neville made the difficult decision to leave his boyhood club, signing for Everton, who the previous season had finished fourth. Ironically, Phil even made his Premier League debut for the Toffees against United, which, of course, meant facing his brother, Gary.
Phil went on to spend eight years on Merseyside, and played over 300 times for Everton, while also becoming one of just 13 players to date to amass over 500 Premier League appearances.
Aged 36, Neville hung up his boots in 2013 and immediately returned to Old Trafford on the coaching staff of new United manager David Moyes. Phil also had a stint in Spain as his brother’s assistant at Valencia, before taking charge of the England Women’s Team in 2018.
Naturally, he is preparing for a busy summer, with the Women’s World Cup taking place in France, where our very own Alex Greenwood is one of the 23 Lionesses included in his squad.
Thanks to United fan and Old Trafford season-ticket holder Stanley Chow for his portrait of Phil Neville. To see more of his ‘Treble Winners’ collection, visit www.thestanleychowprintshop.com.
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