I have a confession to make. I quite like Gary Neville. I know that he’s has a bit of a rat face, and he had the irritating myopia of his former manager, but he’s loyal, unrelenting and intelligent, consistent and talented. The best right-back of his generation. You would love to have a Gary Neville at your club.
As a TV pundit he offers insight that the old lags Lawrenson and Hansen can’t hope to make. He’s almost unique in being a player of the modern era who has played at the very top (and I don’t mean Jamie Redknapp ‘top’, I mean the proper top) plus he is articulate enough to provide insight about that.
In the closing minutes of Manchester United’s Champions’ League game against Basel, Neville offered more insight than Alan Hansen has provided in the last five years. 2-3 down, Manchester United scored at the death and the commentator speculated as to why they have a habit of scoring goals at the death.
Neville’s explanation wasn’t a Hansen list of meaningless nouns (power, pace, passion…). Neville put it simply; when entering the last minute the Manchester United philosophy is; create one good chance and we will score.
It seems so obvious really; but how often do see teams launch balls into the box in hope of snatching an unlikely equaliser or winner? One in every ten aimless punts might succeed. Manchester United create a single good chance with a 80-90% chance of conversion.
At the heart of United’s success is patience not panic, quality not quantity. This isn’t typical of English football, but then Manchester United, with their sustained dominance of domestic football, isn’t a typical English club.
For all the complaints about our home form, we are slowly carving out a season in which we look capable of sustaining a charge at promotion. The 1-0 win over Hereford putting us into the play-off positions, this is not an explosion of success, but gradual finding of our mojo. The home form will come, of that I’m sure.