He was up against some of his toughest opponents of the season but Phil Neville
He was up against some of his toughest opponents of the season but Phil Neville took a central role and dictated events with a maturity and confidence that impressed everyone...
South Africa v England
International Friendly, Durban
Thursday 22nd May, 19.30
Phil Neville met the press yesterday and his contributions were as measured and effective as the tackles he made in that pivotal clash between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford earlier this season.
That day, surrounded by footballers heralded the world over, it was this Bury-born battler who stole the show with a midfield display full of grit, desire and commitment. In the event, even a player of Patrick Vieira's calibre had no response.
Now he has his sixth championship medal and he's back in the international fold too. These are good times for Phil Neville - not that he's getting carried away with any of it.
"That match against Arsenal was just one of those games," he says of a clash in which his Herculean performance was pivotal in turning the psychological tide towards Old Trafford this season.
"I was slightly embarrassed by the publicity that I got after that game against Arsenal," he says with the modesty of a player who epitomises the value of the team over the individual.
"I have played better than that before but it was just the magnitude of that game which was different."
Following a spell in the international wilderness, Neville cannot hide his delight or pride to be back.
"International weeks at [Manchester United's training ground] Carrington make you realise how good it is playing for your country," he says.
"At first when I wasn't involved I thought it was ok - then I realised how much I missed it.
"I'll never retire from international football. I think as long as you're fit and healthy you should always make yourself available to play for your country."
But in which position?
"I've played a special role in midfield for my club this season," he says. "And I think I've given the manager a bit of a dilemma in that I've shown I can do a job there.
"At the same time though it may have worked against me - I would love to nail down a position for myself."
Patrick Vieira will no doubt be hoping that position is not the centre of midfield.
from Daniel Freedman
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