If Alex Ferguson and Manchester United are going to go with stop-gap solutions to the holding midfielder problem, they don’t need to look at players outside the Premiership – one of their own, discarded just an year ago, would absolutely love to return to the club he called home for so many years.
Phil Neville is the rare example of a player who has actually played better after leaving Manchester United – although you could easily assign that to the added responsibility and playing time given to him in midfield at Everton. Manchester United’s match against Everton last season put Neville’s development in perspective – he was the heart of Everton’s midfield, and looked like a light-weight Keano minus the temper.
The fact that he matched and even outshone the United midfield was attributed to our midfield failings – but if we’re going to sign a player like Senna, dammit, we would be better off with someone who bleeds United.
Then there is his long-standing association with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson – something that could motivate him to raise his game even further and play at the standards expected of him. He would never be expected to score goals, but even as a squad player Phil Neville would give Manchester United’s midfield the bite they sorely lack. Despite Ryan Giggs, John O’Shea and Alan Smith shining in the centre of the park, they are playing out of position (we need Smith upfront, and Giggs on the left, while O’Shea is better as a cover for Neville) and we need a player who can make that holding position his own, and Phil Neville is a good fit.
What makes it harder is that Neville is such an integral part of David Moyes’ Everton side. However, assuming that Neville would love to return to United, a serious bid by Manchester United would be hard to ignore.
Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that we actually take a step backwards and re-sign Phil Neville (although selling him was a big, big mistake by Ferguson). However, if we are really going to buy a player like Marcos Senna then Neville is a much better option – he has history, he loves the club and is a solid squad player.
And at the very least, he would be a much better option than Nicky Butt.