Phil Neville says United home finale ‘emptiest I’ve ever felt on a football field’
Manchester United coach Phil Neville says walking around the Old Trafford pitch following Tuesday’s win over Hull City was the “emptiest” he has ever felt on a field and that the day David Moyes was sacked was one of his toughest in the game.
Neville, who won six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League at United before spending eight years at Everton, joined United’s coaching staff after Moyes was appointed Alex Ferguson’s replacement this season.
The Scot was sacked after 10 months in charge after series of limp performances that saw last season’s champions miss out on a Champions League place and in a battle to reach the second-tier Europa League ahead of Sunday’s final match at Southampton.
Neville, 37, survived the cull to remain as coach to interim manager and former team mate Ryan Giggs, but said applauding the club’s fans after the final home match of the season was a hollow feeling.
“I’ve got to say that walking around the pitch after the last home game of the season against Hull City was probably the emptiest I’ve ever felt on a football field,” Neville said at a BBC event.
“I took the job at United fully expecting to be walking around after the last home game of the season either challenging for a league title or parading a league title because that’s what this club demands. We’ve got to make sure next season we are doing that.”
United sit seventh, three points behind Tottenham Hotspur, and will finish outside the top four for the first time since 1991.
Despite their woes, Neville said he was sad to see Moyes go, with the 51-year-old having signed him at Everton and then convinced the former England international to join him in United’s coaching ranks.
“It’s been a real difficult season,” he added.
“For a club that should be challenging for league titles to finish sixth or seventh is obviously not good enough. And to see a man who, for the last nine years, has put so much faith in me, giving me a platform either to play or to coach, to see him lose his job was probably one of the toughest days that I’ve had in football.”
It was the first time he had been at a club when a manager had been sacked.
“As a player I never experienced anything like it, apart from maybe with Kevin Keegan at England (in 2000).
“Ferguson and Moyes have been the bedrock of my professional life, so to see him lose his job, it took a while to sink in.
“David has taken the majority of the criticism from outside the club but ... Everyone connected to the club will take responsibility because we win together and we lose together. It was really disappointing when David lost his job because I class him as a friend.”
Neville said he was unsure of his future beyond this season, with the club reportedly keen on hiring Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
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Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM