Ian Herbert: Neville must stop raging against the dying light

Defender's gesture at City's Tevez was the latest in series of ugly outbursts

You wonder whether the newspapers were spread open in the Gary Neville household yesterday morning. Quite possibly, considering that the Manchester United captain's first child, Molly, who has just turned one, is too young to comprehend the image of her raging father raising a vicious middle finger at Carlos Tevez. The same cannot be said of many other households though. The magnificent drama which unfolded in the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday night made great reading but Neville – who appears likely to escape Football Association punishment for his gesture – offered an abiding image which no father wants his child to see.

Neville is falling away from the game of football fast and raging against the dying of the light in a way that, with every instance of acrimony and anger is tarnishing the contribution made to the game by England's most capped right-back. Don't just look at Tuesday night for the impression that he is a man consumed by bitterness. Other chapters in his ignominious season of include the taunts to Manchester City fans after Michael Owen's winning goal in the 4-3 win at Old Trafford, the sending off at Barnsley in the fourth round of the Carling Cup and abuse hurled at Anfield stewards when they asked him to warm down away from Liverpool's fans after United's 2-0 defeat in October.

And then there was the scene which played out at Upton Park last month when, as he was hobbling off the pitch in the first half, Neville started to scream and gesticulate wildly at substitute Ritchie de Laet, the young full-back, who was warming up on the touchline. The message Neville was trying to impart was that De Laet should have had his tracksuit off, shin-pads on and be fully prepared to come on. The Belgian looked bemused. It was only when Neville reached the dugout that he realised Michael Carrick, fully kitted out for action, was actually the player going to replace him.

The problem for Neville is that too many others have been replacing him for far too long now. His future in the game has been in doubt since the broken ankle he sustained against Bolton in March 2007 put him out for nearly a year. There followed some false dawns as he attempted a comeback and it is clear that he is not the same player. The sight of Neville, flailing in the slipstream of Burnley's David Nugent at Old Trafford on Saturday – Nugent is no sprinter – was pitiful and all the more so as the two men who have accompanied him on his Old Trafford journey are bowing out so gracefully.

Ryan Giggs is actually looking better with the years, while Paul Scholes' murmurings about this being his last campaign were followed up by a glorious goal in that game at Upton Park. Neville is the bystander, lobbing comments from the sidelines in his weekly commentary in The Times of Malta – where this week's observations on Tevez not being worth the money first appeared.

There is nothing in Neville's fairly affluent upbringing which suggests he should conduct himself like this. His brother Phil, who took the gamble on moving to Everton five years ago, has by contrast emerged as a positive force, whose experience as the father of a premature baby has made him a figurehead for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.

The FA were last night pondering whether to charge Neville, who was on a warning from his taunts to City fans at Old Trafford. But perhaps, at the age of 34, he should take the episode as conclusive evidence that now is the time to retire – before even more damage is a done to a solid reputation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on