3.9k Share this
As training draws to a close, it is time for Inter Miami to work on balls from wide. Time for this fledgling club to head back to the future. Time for a couple of promising youngsters to take up rather familiar positions.
Delivering from the right? Beckham. Also shuttling down the flanks? Neville. Three decades have passed since Phil Neville‘s apprenticeship at Manchester United. Today he marshals the back four, barking instructions in English and Spanish.
As for former team-mate, David Beckham? He now patrols the owner’s suite in Fort Lauderdale. These days, it is the turn of their sons Romeo and Harvey. The class of ’92 and their school of ’22.
In an exclusive interview with Sportsmail, Phil Neville (above) has opened up on former club Manchester United’s issues, David Beckham being his boss and life as Inter Miami head coach
The former England Women’s boss finds himself in sunnier surroundings out in Florida
The red running through these bloodlines has faded to pink and ‘maybe the training grounds are a little bit more plush… the weather is definitely better!’ Neville says. The lessons, though, have stood the test of time.
‘What they are going through, it is no different than what I went through,’ Neville tells Sportsmail. ‘That’s the only way to be, the only way that will give them the chance to get right to the very top.’
Harvey Neville, 19, another full back and former United product, was recently promoted to the first team. Winger Romeo Beckham made his senior debut last week. But their manager’s mantra applies to every youngster here. And heading into the 2022 MLS campaign, the pressure is on.
Grumblings that Neville had again fallen upwards, this time handed a job by his old mate despite never managing a club, hardly subsided during his difficult first year when Inter Miami finished 11th – one place lower than in their maiden MLS season. Neville accepts performances ‘weren’t good enough’. But he pleads mitigation.
‘We wanted to build something with strong values and a strong culture. We felt probably last season we couldn’t do that with the group of players we had,’ he says. ‘Sometimes you have to make brave decisions.’
So Neville has been backed to oversee a ‘reset’. The squad has been rebuilt, the emphasis on firm foundations reiterated.
Beckham ( right), is owner of the MLS side his former United team-mate Neville (left) coaches
Miami’s shift has been shaped somewhat by crippling salary cap sanctions but Neville insists: ‘The academy is one of – if not the – most important parts of our vision. It’s a non-negotiable.’
That starts from the ownership. ‘They want a team full of local Floridian footballers out on that field. Why? Because they are passionate, they will die for this football club. No different from what I felt when I was growing up in Manchester.’
So youngsters train with the first team at a base which would be the envy of many Premier League sides, sports psychology helps prospects make the jump, former players such as Ryan Shawcross are kept on as coaches.
‘No different to what I had with Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd, Bryan Robson,’ Neville says.
‘If a young player is getting a little bit carried away – they are a little bit loud, wearing flashy clothes, or they are on the field and spending a little bit too much time on the ball, someone will let them know,’ Neville says. How?
‘They will challenge you, kick you up the backside, love and cuddle you – all the things a parent would do.
‘We expose our young players to the senior team very quickly and we drip them in and out. That’s what Sir Alex Ferguson did to me. There were times when he put me in, times when Robson, (Steve) Bruce, (Roy) Keane, they killed me every single day.
Former Stoke City centre back Ryan Shawcross is working at Inter Miami as a coach right now
‘Sometimes I thought, “I cannot handle this. Am I going to get through this?” But that was the character building training that we needed.’
If it feels like Neville is coaching within a time warp, perhaps that is because nostalgia surrounds him in south Florida. Miami is where he spent his honeymoon with wife Julie.
‘I didn’t go home at Christmas because the first nine months during the season were just a whirlwind,’ says Neville. ‘So I wanted to spend a month really breathing – driving up the coast, driving into Miami to see this beautiful city.’
Not much pulls the 45-year-old home. ‘The only thing I miss is my mum, my sister and my family.’ And chocolate. ‘There’s an English shop just down the road, Pond Hoppers it’s called. We go down there and get Kit Kats, Dairy Milks and Jelly Babies.’
Here, the Premier League can feel ‘a million miles away’ too. But United and Everton shirts hang in Neville’s office and passion for his former employers endures.
‘What I always think about Manchester United: there is no divine right to win,’ he says.
Romeo Beckham, son of owner David, is now pushing to be part of the squad out in Miami
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left the club in a better shape. They are still producing young players, they are still the biggest club in England, they are just not getting success. But for 30 years, Liverpool weren’t getting success. It’s something people are just going to have to accept. And it will take time.’
Before taking on the Miami job, Neville managed England Women for three years. ‘I learned more in that job than probably anything else I’ve done in my life,’ he says.
‘I took a brave decision – to go to women’s football at a time when it probably wasn’t at the forefront of everybody’s mind. I’d seen what my sister Tracey had changed in netball. So I wanted to go there and make change.’
Despite mixed fortunes, he insists: ‘I had nothing but pride in terms of the way we as an organisation had helped make change. I played a small part in that.’
Neville points to the prominence women’s football now receives in the media and across the game.
The pair were part of the famous ‘Class of ’92’ at Old Trafford – and Neville had his say on the Premier League side, claiming it could be a long time before they experience success again
At Miami, Neville has advantages over their rivals: this area – and Beckham’s presence – helps attract players. Friends since their teens, Neville and Beckham’s relationship was not frayed even during last season’s struggles.
‘For a manager in the modern era, that’s quite unique,’ Neville says. And he should know.
As one of Beckham’s co-owners at Salford, Neville is in the curious position of seeing life from both sides of the boardroom door.
‘The managers we have sacked at Salford are the ones who for the last three months stopped talking to my brother Gary,’ Neville says. ‘As soon as the communication stops, I think you’re dead.’
Source: DailyMail Sports