Phil Neville knows what he is talking about. This is not up for discussion because that isn’t how Phil operates. It isn’t a matter of opinion, right, it’s a fact! He is many things to many people and a football pundit to the BBC whose remit is to inform… oh, and entertain.
Phil does his research you see and drills down into the stats to support each and every case he makes.
He has been studying the form of Manchester City strikers ever since he rather clumsily hacked them down whenever they passed him in midfield, which was quite often – according to Roy, who was much more frightening than referees, right!
Sergio Agüero is City’s top scorer so far this season with 18 goals and lies third on City’s all-time scoring chart with 154. He was the top scorer in the PL (Pre-Leicester) in 2014-15 and he also got quite a significant winner against no less than three teams at once: Queens, Park and Rangers one day.
However, right, Gabriel Jesus got three goals in two starts when Agüero was on the bench and so Phil is proved right about Agüero when he states that: “If you look at the stats, City are better without him in the team.”
Phil also takes what he calls an in-depth view of things, right, spotting that City boss Pep Guardiola “sometimes doesn’t like centre-forwards in his team at all” and “likes them to be able to play out wide.”
Phil is able to draw on his wealth of experience of football beyond the North-West of England by explaining to the rest of us that sometimes (but not often, right!) he wasn’t wanted in the team either and had to go out wide to sit in the stands, which, luckily, enabled him to tell Sir Alex how to change things at half-time, all without getting changed himself.
Recalling some of the, very personal, one-to-one feedback he received at the highest level then, Phil can confirm that, similarly: “Pep’s got a lot of ideas about how he wants to play.”
Phil has often had to deal with the trauma of being told that his voice reminds the BBC viewers (or, more likely, listeners, such is the blissful escape of a wet towel over football supporters’ eyes, up and down the nation) of a bee, buzzing endlessly until it sees danger and goes to ground.
“I think this all goes back to the Euros in 2000, right (economists amongst you need not look away now in despair; Phil doesn’t consider himself to also be an expert on foreign exchange systems, unless, Jesus…) when I thought the Romanian boy, Moldovan, was going to argue with me. Roy always told me that the first law of arguing was to get in first, talk very loudly and always look mean. Some people call that the Holy Trinity and I’ve never forgotten it. So, I knew, right, that I had to give away a penalty and put England out; many other people have never forgotten that either.”
As far as Agüero is concerned, Phil is also concerned; certain that: “it looks like the writing is on the wall.”
Phil is, again, well placed to share this observation openly with those of us who didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the Manchester United dressing room/prison.
“History was made in that room,” he recalls, his eyes as wide and bright as those of a rabbit before being mowed down by one of a number of willing volunteer drivers, “there were signs everywhere: ‘Best: this is what a Red Devil drinks,’ ‘Bobby: if this is slavery, give me a life sentence’ and ‘Posh 4 Becks ©’
Phil can read, right, obviously not out loud because that would be multi-processing, but if walls could talk they might be saying something very different.