World Cup hope for Gary Neville

Gary Neville has left the door open for Fabio Capello to give him a
World Cup call.

Neville won the last of his 85 caps against Spain three years
ago and has only figured in one Capello squad – the double-header
against Kazakhstan and Andorra last June.

However, with Manchester United team-mate Wes Brown ruled out
for six weeks after breaking his foot at Wolves on Saturday, and
Liverpool’s Glen Johnson only just back from long-term injury
himself, suddenly Neville is being talked about as a possible for
Capello’s 23-man squad in South Africa this summer.

Certainly the cross Neville curled over for Wayne Rooney to
put United in front against AC Milan last night was a throwback to
earlier in the full-back’s career, when he was part of such a
prolific right-sided partnership for club and country with David
Beckham.

And while the 35-year-old is not expecting to be heading for
South Africa, he is not dismissing the possibility completely.

“England is out of my hands,” said Neville.

“It has not happened for two to three years and I am not
holding out for a call but I have not retired. I always said I
never would.

“I am playing for United and would play for my country.”

Just to even be mentioned says much about Neville’s
fortitude.

It is three years since he suffered a broken ankle in a
tackle with Gary Speed at Old Trafford that proved to be the
catalyst for a succession of muscular problems.

Even though he has made far more frequent appearances this
season, Neville has still only played in 48 games during the
intervening period, missing out on, amongst other things, two
European Cup finals and the 2007 FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea.

There must have been times when Neville thought about
abandoning the uphill struggle.

Yet, to his immense credit, the Bury-born star has continued
to fight.

“Gary is a great player and a remarkable man,” said Sir Alex
Ferguson.

“When you are out of the game for 18 months it is never going
to be an easy road back to playing every week. Not at 35.

“He succeeds because he has the will. That is what Gary
Neville is about.”

Neville admits he enjoys occasions like last night’s as much
as he did when he was a raw young professional, recently emerged
from that famed ‘Class of 92’.

“I enjoy these nights as much as I have ever done,” he said.

“It is what you live for. Playing against AC Milan at Old
Trafford in front of 75,000. It is a dream.”

Now he has a Champions League quarter-final to look forward
to, plus another thrilling climax to a Premier League season.

Not that Neville is getting too far ahead of himself.

Even though Real Madrid have gone, and another favourite is
sure to fall when Chelsea entertain Inter Milan next Tuesday, the
defender is refusing to take anything for granted.

He even plays down a belief that most of Europe will look at
last night’s scoreline with a very wary eye.

“People like to come up with a headline that you have sent a
message out but when the draw is made, the quarter-final will be
two more difficult games, no matter who we are playing,” said
Neville.

“We are confident at the moment and playing well.

“We are happy with this performance, and the one at the San
Siro.

“Whether the rest of Europe look at that and think United are
in form again, I don’t know. I hope so. But we have a lot to do
before we get back to another final.

“There has only been one year in the last 10 or 12 that we
have not got to the knock-out phase, so we have experience.

“Hopefully the draw is kind and gives us an away leg first.

“But we have to be at the peak of our performance if we want
to get a result.”