Neville strives to pass on 'Class of 92' values to next generation
The idea, Phil Neville says, was "to put some of our values back into the players."
Manchester United's 'Class of 92' were repatriated by Alex Ferguson and David Moyes to "plot the next stage" for the club where boot-cleaning, car-washing and buses home were part of a good education.
Neville, now a first-team coach to Moyes, will be in the dugout at Bayer Leverkusen tonight and again at Tottenham on Sunday before attending the West End premiere of the documentary 'Class of 92' with his old FA Youth Cup-winning friends: among them Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and his brother Gary.
"Alex told me one day I'd be back at the club," the younger Neville says. "There's me, there's Nicky, there's Paul Scholes. Gary's an ambassador. It's like rewinding 25 years."
Still driven, still successful, the Neville brothers laugh about their school swot role in the side which grew together into the treble-winning gang of 1999 (Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup).
Phil concedes that he and Gary would be unusually revved up for games an hour before kick-off while others lounged around the changing rooms.
"We (the Nevilles) used to think: 'how are they going to be able play today?'" he says. "Someone's talking about having a Nando's after training. Becks is looking at a car brochure. And Scholesy? He just wants to be at home now. Me and Gary are doing our stretches. That's how we were."
The bond remains unbreakable. Underlying the fraternal spirit, though, was fierce competitive tension: "Me and Gary were fighting for the same place. Nicky and Paul were really fighting for the same place.
"Even Ryan and Becks were fighting for superstar status. So, there was unbelievable rivalry."
Rejoining the club in August brought him full circle and evoked the day Ferguson invited him to his home in 2005 to discuss a prospective move to Everton.
"I think he (Ferguson) found it more difficult than I did. He wasn't cold about it. I could have stayed at United, but he saw what it was doing to me not playing and he wanted to help me."
'The Class of 92', he insists, is no branding operation. "We don't need to do this for the money. We're doing it for the friendship, to get together.
"It's hard to pin down Becks, but when he came up for the meal he said: 'Let's do this again, let's go out for a beer next time, let's recreate the old times'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)