Gary Neville: ‘Cricket toughened me up a lot more than football’

Gary Neville on his love of the Ashes, what he learned from Matt Hayden and how Manchester United were like Australia

By Felix White for Wisden Cricket Monthly

Without the good fortune of having seen an England side lose games of cricket for almost an entire decade, I don’t think I could have fallen in love with sport. That run of defeats bred in me commitment to a doomed cause, a sporting value I held above all else. Certainly, above winning. Teams that won all the time, were, to my mind, slightly distasteful. Of that era, there were two in particular: the Australian cricket team that won everything going for 15 years and Manchester United. For me, they were one and the same.

Players from both of these decorated teams have taught me a humbling lesson in their post-career lives. It turns out that Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, David Beckham, Paul Scholes et al are all three-dimensional, likeable and real human beings. When I meet Gary Neville at his very own Hotel Football overlooking Old Trafford, I put the similarity between the two teams to him. “That Australian side was everything I’d ever want in a sports side,” he says. “To me, they were the ultimate cricket team. Like us, they never knew when they were beat. The word I would use is uncompromising.”

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