Phil Neville: Red and Blue

phil neville manchester united

Player Profile: Phil Neville

Date of Birth: 21/01/1977

Height: 1.80 m

Position(s): Right-back and central-midfield

National Team: England

International Caps: 59

International Goals: 0

Club Career

It’s not easy when you have to follow in the footsteps of a more illustrious family member. It’s even more difficult if it’s your older brother. Just ask Phil Neville.

Throughout his career, especially at Manchester United, the younger Neville was compared to brother Gary, who rose to become club captain at United. Even today, fan boards and subreddits ask the same question – why wasn’t Phil as good a footballer as Gary. It’s a valid question, especially considering that, as youngsters, the younger Neville was considered the more talented player. The question almost always receives the same answer. Gary stuck at it and made the right-back position his own, while Phil became a jack-of-all-trades. Always safe and reliable, but never spectacular.

Still, with multiple league titles, a Champions League medal and a lot more international caps for England than most footballers, Phil Neville had a solid career.

After progressing through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, Neville made his Manchester United debut in the 1994-95 season against Wrexham in 4th round of the FA Cup. His league debut came in a more prestigious fixture – the Manchester Derby. He would only make three appearances that season, but he had a more prominent role to play in the next, featuring 34 times in the 1995-96 season. He even started the FA Cup final against Liverpool that United won 1-0.

As a youth player, Neville was a left-back, but he had a hard time making that position his own in the senior team thanks to the never-wavering form of Denis Irwin. He spent a lot of the next few seasons deputizing for either Irwin or older brother Gary at right-back. With opportunities hard to come by, he also started slotting in at central midfield, a role that he would make permanent much later in his career.

After struggling during the 1996-97 season – playing just 24 times – Neville was back in the thick of things the following year amassing 42 appearances and scoring his first goal for the club.

In 1998-99, Neville was part of the history-making United side who won the treble. However, he nearly prevented United from completing that landmark, conceding a penalty during extra time of the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, fouling Ray Parlour. However, Peter Schmeichel saved the resulting penalty and Ryan Giggs scored a winner to hand the Red Devils the tie.

With an ageing Irwin declining, Neville became more established in the Manchester United backline by 2001-02 and even grabbed two league goals against Southampton and Sunderland. He was ever-present as United regained the Premier League title from Arsenal in 2002-03. Like brother Gary, Neville had a feisty attitude and picked up more cards in 2002-03 than any other United player in history.

With the emergence of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, United coach Sir Alex Ferguson decided that he needed to rebuild the team in order to regain lost glory. Neville was one of the players that Ferguson did not see in United’s future and in 2005, he completed a move to Everton for £3 million. Ironically, his league debut was against United and he faced off against older brother Gary. 

Although he had a tough first season at Goodison Park – Everton finished eleventh after qualifying for the Champions League the previous year – Neville established himself as one of the senior statesmen in the team and rose to the position of club captain. Indeed, when United met Everton in 2006, he and Gary became the first siblings to captain teams in a Premier League match. 

In his first full season as captain, 2007-08, Everton finished fifth and made the semi-finals of the League Cup. They maintained their league position the next year while also making the final of the FA Cup, losing to Chelsea. Indeed, after his disappointing first year, Neville never finished lower than eighth with Everton in the subsequent seven seasons. Unfortunately, after a trophy-laden stint with Manchester United, he never could win anything with Everton.

On April 9, 2013, Everton announced they would not be renewing Neville’s contract. He then announced his intention to retire from professional football. Neville made 505 Premier League appearances, which places him tenth in the all-time appearances charts.

International Career

Phil Neville first came into reckoning with the England national team in 1996. He made the squad for the 1996 Euros – the youngest player in the England side – but never played a game. Neville suffered heartbreak when Glenn Hoddle omitted him from the England squad for the 1998 World Cup at the last minute.

By the time, the 2000 Euros came along, Neville was enjoying a run as England’s first-choice left-back. However, that tournament would end in horror for him as he would concede the penalty that Romani scored to put England out of the competition. The emergence of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge made it even harder for Neville to get into the England side and he was not part of the 2002 World Cup team.

Neville was back in the mix for the 2004 Euros but again omitted from the 2006 World Cup side, only making the stand-in list. He played his last game for England in 2007 against Estonia in a Euro 2008 qualifier. 

Where is Phil Neville now?

Phil Neville is currently the manager of the England Women’s national side. He has been in the job since 2018 and has taken England to three different tournaments. He took them to the SheBelieves cup not long after taking the role and narrowly missed out on winning the cup to the USA. They came back in 2019 and were victorious as they defeated Japan 3-0.

He also took the women to the World Cup in the same year. It was a great tournament in France, and England nearly went all the way but lost to Holland in the semi-final; they ultimately finished 4th in the competition. 

Neville previously worked with David Moyes and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United as a first-team coach during the 2013/14 season. In 2015, Neville became assistant manager at Valencia to manager Nuno Espírito Santo and then brother, Gary Neville.

He is also one of the owners of Salford City alongside his brother Gary, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes. They own 60% between them alongside businessman Peter Lim.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Phil Neville

– Phil Neville’s sister, Tracey, coached the England national netball team to victory at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

– His son Harvey, currently plays for Manchester United’s under-18s and represents the Republic of Ireland at the youth level. Neville’s wife Julie is Irish.

– As a youngster, Neville was very good at cricket as well. He was captain of the England U-15 side and was the youngest player to play for Lancashire’s second eleven at the age of 15. His Lancashire U-19 teammates included future England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff.