The Sad Decline Of Gary Neville
Unfortunately, it looks like Gary Neville is steadily getting worse... I know that fans of opposing sides are rubbing their hands gleefully now but for us it's sad to see a true Red in such a decline.
For Gary Neville's been one of the best right-backs of the world for a long time: a player whose workrate, positional sense and crossing lifted him out of the ordinary. He was a reliable point of world-class Manchester United teams for over a decade.
But it increasingly looks like that the 2006/07 season represented his last flourish (same with Paul Scholes: the Ginger Ninja hasn't been anywhere near the performance of that campaign ever since) and now it's decline only. His injury, sustained against Bolton in March 2007, had been expected to need two weeks to heal. Yet he eventually returned in April 2008, for ten minutes against Roma in the Champions League quarter-final.
This season has seen him playing more often but it's rather painful. For every good performance (most remarkably against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge and at Old Trafford too) there are at least two wretched ones (Arsenal, Villa and now Sunderland). He lost his pace, can't keep up with younger, fresher legs any more his aerial prowess has disappeared as well.
The contrast between his feeble displays and Brown's consistently outstanding performances of last seeason is all too sharp and there's still the young pretender Rafael who looks like everything and some more that Gary Neville ever was.
At Sunderland it was once again painfully apparent that the days of the old fighter are numbered and that the end of his career is nigh. He just couldn't live with them even though for some reason they hardly targeted that flank but placed almost every hope in getting around John O'Shea which proved to be a rather easy task as Big John looks dead on his feet - nobody played more games than him in the United squad!
But I digress. The fact is that it looks like Gary Neville is past it. And it's all the more painful as it's clear that he's deeply troubled by his own failings: he's painfully up for every game, every minute, every tackle. He feels that he's not good enough but won't give up without a fight...