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The other half of the Neville duo at Old Trafford, Phil followed in the footsteps made by his brother Gary 12 months before him. After progressing through the lower ranks - which included captaining the Youth Team to victory in the FA Youth Cup in 1995 - he is now a prominant and versatile member of the first team.

A natural right footer, but more comfortable playing at left back, he is gifted with exceptional pace making him more adept than his brother going forward but no less ferocious defensively.

He first team debut came in the 5:1 FA Cup win over Wrexham in early 1995. Aged just 18 he immediately impressed. His mazey dribble and cross to set up Ryan Giggs for a second half goal gave Old Trafford a taster of what was to come.

However it wasn't until `Fergie's Fledglings' took centre stage in 1995/96 that Phil began to push hard for a first team place. He provided regular cover for both Irwin and Gary Neville and come the FA Cup final in May 1996 he had upstaged his brother from the team. 12 days after the 1:0 win over Liverpool at Wembley he was capped by England aged only 19.

But in 1996/97 the good times evaporated for Phil as an ankle injury sidelined him till the Autumn of 1996. On his return he struggled to regain form mainly due to the contraction of glandular fever which again put him out of action until early March.

Having regained full fitness he was back to his best in 1997/98 when he was often called upon to play in more advanced positions than he was normally used to. Continuing midfield injuries saw Phil play left wing, centre midfield and even right midfield. He was never found wanting however and even found the time for his first goal for the senior side, scoring the winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February 1998.

Phil's qualites both as a full-back and wide midfielder are there for all to see, so much so that any fears Alex Ferguson may have of replacing the once irreplacable Denis Irwin can be put to rest for many years to come.


Patrick Eustace 2000. Last modified on Thurs, 27 Jan, 2000

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