Neville: If United had gone for Mourinho he'd be off in three years… Moyes is the real Special One
They always said the Special One would manage Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson. Spend time with Phil Neville and he will tell you that is still the case.
Jose Mourinho was often regarded as being Ferguson’s successor-in-waiting but United’s decision to raid Everton for David Moyes, rather than pursuing the flamboyant Portuguese man of war, is not something Neville believes his old club will regret.
For while Mourinho will inevitably grab headlines on his return to Chelsea, revelling in the fact he will be the centre of attention once more, Neville has no doubt Moyes is more suited to filling the biggest job in football. Mourinho may have unique qualities but so, too, does Moyes.
‘The pressure will always be there and he will have to win games and trophies,’ said Neville. ‘He will do that. People talk about Jose Mourinho being the Special One but the gaffer has something special about him. He keeps producing.
‘Every season at Everton people would say he was going to get stale and the club was going to finish in the bottom half but that never happened. He squeezes everything out of everyone. He was the best candidate, 100 per cent.
‘If Jose Mourinho came to Manchester United you would think, with his track record, that in maybe three seasons he would be gone. Manchester United are looking at the next 20 years. You can put him (Moyes) alongside any coach in the world for that job and he is the best candidate. There is no-one else they could have invested in who would offer the same longevity as the previous manager.’
This is typical Neville. Never short of an opinion or afraid to pass comment, few are better placed to provide an assessment of why Moyes is the perfect fit to follow Ferguson. After all, they are the only managers he represented during a stellar 18-year career in the Barclays Premier League.
Whether a journey that netted six titles, one Champions League trophy and 59 England caps has reached its end, though, remains uncertain. Neville, 36, missed the final two months of Everton’s campaign with a knee problem that may ultimately force him to call time.
He had an operation in November and amazed club medical staff by shaving three weeks off an expected two-month absence. When he got going after Christmas, though, he never felt right. His last game was the 3-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Wigan in March.
‘I’m not announcing my retirement, I’m going to relax and see how the body feels after the summer,’ Neville explained. ‘I’ll see what options I have after a holiday and decide then. I don’t want to rush into retirement and regret it as people say play until your legs can’t take it.’
Yet retirement is not something he fears. His eight-year association with Everton as a player may be over but he has options. Stoke, for instance, have courted him, and there have been offers from the Championship.
Opportunities in the media abound — Neville has appeared regularly on the BBC over the last 12 months — and he will also be a part of the England Under 21 backroom staff this summer, but there is also a sense that he would like to escape football’s bubble.
‘I’ve got so many ambitions,’ he says. ‘I want to run marathons. I have a friend who organises them and he says I should do one in Ethiopia one day. He said it is the most fantastic experience. I want to do triathlons.
‘I want to travel the world, spend more time with family. I want to give time back to my wife, Julie, and my mum and dad. But that is a dream. Realistically, if I woke up and I had nothing to go to, that would probably destroy me. I need to work.’
He stresses the word ‘need’. There is no doubting Neville’s enthusiasm for embracing new ventures — he has helped Julie launch a flourishing online health food business — but football is what he knows best and he is ready to make the transition from pitch to dugout.
If the prospect of replacing Moyes as Everton boss arose, he would grab it with both hands. Equally, if he was called by Moyes to say he wanted him on his staff at Old Trafford, there would be no decision to make. Whatever he does, however, there is no doubt he is fully prepared.
‘I regularly watch games I’m not involved in,’ he says. ‘I’ve been writing things down for the last five years — talks, manager’s team meetings, training sessions, whatever. You either have that or you don’t.
‘There is this pre-conceived idea that I would follow the likes of Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and my brother Gary into the media because financially it is good and you can explore other things.
‘But football is my life. No-one asked me to go to watch Wigan against Swansea two weeks ago but I went because it is what I love. I see it in the best managers. David Moyes works hard, but he works hard at something he loves doing.
‘I have some really nice decisions to make. I am prepared for every eventuality. That is key. I’ve not reached the end of my career and thought, “I know — I’ll be a manager”. Let’s just wait and see.’