Phil Neville admitted yesterday that he had considered leaving Manchester United because of his inability to secure a regular first-team place.
The 26-year-old, who has been included in the England squad for the first time since before the World Cup, said: "The thought does enter my mind that if I left United, would I play more games? Would I be as happy?" But he added: "I would probably play more games but I probably would not be as happy."
However, Neville does believe that the versatility which has enabled him to play regularly for United this season - and win his sixth championship medal - has probably cost him international appearances. "It is something that I would like to sort out really," said Neville, who prefers to play at left-back. "I do get switched around a lot and play in a lot of positions. It is something I enjoy but it does work against you."
It is a familiar refrain at United - the Republic of Ireland defender John O'Shea has said that he would like to settle on either full-back or central defence. But despite Neville's desire to "nail down a position" he admits "it is impossible to say to the manager I just want to play in that position - because it means you will play half the games". Not that it is easy to imagine any player making such a demand of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Nevertheless, he has made more than 40 appearances this season, most notably in the 2-0 league win against Arsenal in which he was man of the match in central midfield, opposed by Patrick Vieira. Neville, who said he has become more aggressive, said: "When people question if I am right to stay, then the facts are on my CV really. I am at the most successful club in football over the last decade and at the end of the day I do play my part. It is not as if I played only 10 or 15 games this season, I play 30 to 40 every season. At a club like Manchester United I think that is some achievement."
Indeed, having also won two FA Cups and the Champions' League, he made it into a United team of the decade selected by Ferguson. Despite that - and 37 caps to date - his call-up to the England squad by the coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, was unexpected.
"I have not been in the squad for a while now and, to be honest, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have a long summer holiday," Neville said. "I thought I had a chance for the Australia game when it was obvious they were going to play two teams. But it is weeks like that at Carrington [United's training ground] that make you realise how good playing for your country is because it is you and the physios training together. At the start it did not affect me too much because I had a week off and I thought 'this is OK' but then I started watching the games and I was desperate to get back in."
He now has a chance of adding to his tally - with Ashley Cole, of Arsenal, and Southampton's Wayne Bridge not joining the squad in South Africa.Reuse content