Gary Neville feels there was nothing wrong with the way he celebrated Manchester United’s late winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The 30-year-old England right-back was seen grabbing his shirt and gesticulating at Liverpool supporters.
He told The Sun:
“I would have been apologetic if I had run up to one of their players and tried to belittle them but this was a celebration. You are caught up in the moment and for a few seconds you can go bananas. What are you meant to do? Smile sweetly and jog back to the halfway line? I laughed when I heard someone say that it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are probably the same people who have accused us of lacking passion in recent games. No disrespect to Liverpool was intended. Last week, I had to put up with a Liverpool lad taunting our fans during the Manchester derby but at no point did I even consider that Robbie Fowler should be punished. The stick is part of the game. One week you take it on the chin, the next you give it out. That is how local rivals have always been – and always should be. I have to put up with Liverpool fans singing plenty of songs about me, none of them tasteful, and I struggle to believe that I have caused them any grave offence with an exuberant celebration. Increasingly people seem to want their footballers to be whiter than white and there are calls for sanctions over every little incident. Do they want a game of robots?”
Neville had been subjected to taunts from Liverpool fans throughout the game and reacted after Rio Ferdinand headed United’s winner in a 1-0 win over their arch-rivals. Neville has also been backed by the Professional Footballers’ Association over the incident.
PFA deputy chief executive Mick McGuire told ESPN:
“It was a sign of passion and commitment to his club. When you look at it, all he is doing is kissing his badge, which is something you see Frank Lampard doing on a regular basis. It is a way for players to show their feelings towards their own club.”
But Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher criticised Neville’s actions, saying:
“I think there is a line and Neville crossed it. I’ve heard people say it’s justified because he gets a lot of stick from our fans but the truth is he gets stick as he’s been doing that for years. I feel the same way about Liverpool as Neville does about Manchester United and, from that point of view, we’re similar but I don’t act like that when we score against United. If I did, I’d expect United fans to give me the same amount of abuse.”
Greater Manchester Police has written to the Football Association and Manchester United to complain over Neville’s actions.
A statement from GMP said:
“Chief Superintendent Andy Holt has written a letter expressing his concern. No criminal investigation is taking place at this stage.”
The FA may now decide to take action against Neville following the letter sent by GMP.
English football’s governing body are believed to be waiting on referee Mike Riley’s report.
Having failed to witness the original incident, Riley is due to offer his verdict on Neville’s actions to the FA on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Neville’s teamates, including the sqeaky clean Park are backing him 100%.