Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville had the chance to choose a sport other than football for a career. In his early days at the Manchester United academy, Neville used to play cricket for Greenmount in the Bolton League.
In an interview to Wisden Cricket Monthly, Neville, who had trophy laden career (20 trophies) with the Red Devils under Sir Alex Ferguson, spoke about how he scored a century for Greenmount with former Australian batsman Matthew Hayden standing at the other end in 1992.
Neville, 17 at the time, recollected how the left handed Hayden motivated him during the innings. “I hit a bad shot, and Hayden came up to me and said, ‘Concentrate, I don’t want any of that crap, this is not the time’. That mentality of ‘You don’t get out, you don’t give your wicket away’. That was something I didn’t value enough. He did. Even then. He valued his wicket.”
Neville further added that he always wanted to be part of the team which had the likes of Hayden. McGrath. Warne. Gillespie. Gilchrist. The Waughs. Hayden. Taylor. “That Australian side was everything I would want in a team,” Neville said. “You know what I love? The mentality. They were always on the front foot and they never backed off,” the former England captain said.
The former footballer went onto say that cricket helped him toughen up as a sportsman early on. “I’d say cricket toughened me up in my early years a lot more than football, because I was playing in the third, second and first team until the age of 15. We were playing with men, some professionals of that time, fast bowlers, with your helmet on. It was really scary,” he said.
Gary Neville played in 85 international matches for the England senior side between 1995 and 2007. He also made 400 appearances for Manchester United and was one of the members of United’s famous “Class of 1992”.