Neville recalls bizarre vote before PL debut

Thursday 27 August 2020 09:00

Phil Neville has revealed that the Manchester United squad wanted to go to an Irish pub rather than play the 132nd Manchester derby, back in February 1995.

The Premier League game at Maine Road was under threat due to torrential rain and, while Sir Alex Ferguson was attending a pitch inspection, defender Gary Pallister decided to hold a vote to find out whether the team preferred to play or have an afternoon off at legendary city-centre pub Mulligans.
In the latest episode of UTD Podcast, the younger Neville laughed that he and sibling Gary – neither of whom had played in a Manchester derby – were the only Reds desperate for the game to go ahead.
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“We were having our pre-match [meal] and I’ll never forget, Pally was saying: ‘Right lads, let’s have a vote: do we want it on? If it’s off, we can go to Mulligans.’
“So they were going around everyone. There was me, my brother and someone else, and we were like: ‘We want the game to be on; we want to play!’ 
“Everyone else was going ‘Mulligans! Mulligans!’ It came to me and I said, ‘I want the game on’ and literally I got absolutely abused!”
The match eventually went ahead, and Neville junior made his Premier League debut for the club – despite only finding out he would be involved a couple of hours before kick-off:
“I’d played on the Wednesday night at Oldham in an FA Youth Cup game. Then on the Friday morning, Kiddo came down and said: ‘Oh, Phil, just come and train with us today, come and have a session with us today.’ Dead relaxed. Almost as if it was like just a play-around in the park. So I trained with the first team. 
“After training, the boss said: ‘Meet at the Copthorne [Hotel] tomorrow at 12 o’clock, Phil. Just come and watch the derby tomorrow. It’s a derby game tomorrow – it’ll be good for your experience. You can help Norman [Davies], the kit man.”
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After the bizarre pub-or-match vote, Phil was shocked to find out that he would be starting the game.
“The boss came back [from the pitch inspection] and he went: ‘Schmeichel in goal, Denis right-back, Bruce, Pallister, Phil Neville, left-back.’
“Well, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here? I’m playing!’ 
“So we went to the game, and it’s the only game in my career I don’t remember anything about. I just remember we won the game 3-0, I think, and I got subbed about 70 minutes. I was absolutely shattered. And that’s the only thing I remember about the game – just walking off after 70 minutes. 
“The boss put his arm round me, and Kiddo gave me a hug. That’s the only thing I remember: the vote before the game in the Copthorne about whether to go to an Irish pub or to play a game against Manchester City, and then obviously coming off.”

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Neville had made just one previous appearance prior to the game – in the FA Cup against Wrexham – but the Manchester derby was a big step up.
“I’ll never forget Kiddo saying, ‘You’ve proved you can handle playing for Manchester United’, because it was a derby. I’d made my [league] debut in a Manchester derby. 
“I remember the game being so fast. I was up against a player called [Maurizio] Gaudino. I think Mike Sheron played up front, and I remember Terry Phelan and Keith Curle. I’ll never forget in the tunnel, they were all looking at me as if to say: ‘Who’s this young little whippersnapper?’ But the game passed me by. The game just went by in an absolute blur. I had a good game, though, I think!”