Manchester United’s first-team coach Phil Neville returns to Goodison Park for the first time since leaving for Old Trafford and admits team has failed on the pitch this season.
Bracing himself for a turbulent reception at Goodison Park, the Scot goes into Sunday’s fixture admitting the scars of his departure need “time to heal”.
Meanwhile, United first-team coach Phil Neville makes the same return journey to Everton claiming that the fallen champions have “failed” this season and that they go into the summer feeling a rare sense of emptiness.
Neville won the title six times in 10 years at United but the former England defender has experienced nothing like that success since he returned to Old Trafford to become David Moyes’ first-team coach last summer.
United are seventh in the table, some 20 points behind rivals Liverpool with five matches left. United are guaranteed to end the campaign with their worst points total in the Premier League era, and that does not sit right with their former left-back.
United’s fall from grace under Moyes has been as dramatic as Everton’s rise under Roberto Martínez and the Merseyside club’s progress under the Spaniard has led to a reassessment of Moyes’s 11-year reign as manager.
“It’s been difficult watching other teams above us do well and to even look at a league table,” the former United player told the BBC’s Football Focus.
“I find it difficult to watch Match of the Day on Saturday night; I find it almost impossible because we’ve suffered this season.”
Neville, who played under Moyes for eight years at Everton, insists everyone at the club is hurting because of their predicament. “We have failed on the pitch and that doesn’t sit kindly with anyone,” Neville said before United’s trip to Everton on Sunday.
“We are not hiding away from the fact that we have underperformed. We have not fulfilled any levels of expectations this season.”
When Moyes surveyed United’s fixtures at the start of this season, it is likely the trip to Goodison would have been viewed as a hazardous obstacle to be overcome in a tense battle for the title. And there remains lingering resentment on Merseyside in relation to Moyes’s departure following clandestine meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson and United’s owners, the Glazer family.
But with United languishing in seventh position, two places and nine points behind Everton, neither Moyes nor Neville will walk back into their former club with head held as high as they would wish.
Moyes’s struggles at Old Trafford and Everton’s impressive form under Martínez ensure that there will be no hiding place for the United manager when he takes his seat in the visitors’ dugout on Sunday, however.