Phil Neville has been forced to apologise on Twitter for his comments aimed at Tomas Rosicky after the BBC pundit flippantly claimed he would've 'two-footed' the Arsenal midfielder to deter him from the showboating antics he showcased against Brighton & Hove Albion during Sunday's FA Cup fourth round clash at the Amex Stadium.
The Czech Republic international turned in a man-of-the-match performance against the Championship opposition, scoring one goal and creating another to help Arsene Wenger's side book their place in the fifth round of the competition after a 3-2 victory over the Seagulls.
However, the 34-year-old's impressive display also drew some criticism from the Match of the Day studio after Neville said that some of his flicks and tricks were unnecessary and showed a lack of respect to Brighton, asserting that Rosicky would've found himself on the receiving end of a strong challenge if it had happened against him during his playing days for Manchester United or Everton.
"If that was a training session and somebody did that I'd be first over there and I'd probably look to two-foot him or take him out of the game," he explained. "If somebody did that in training to me, winding me up, I would be straight in there. I'd smash them."
Neville's comments were, quite obviously, not intended to be taken seriously, but that didn't stop a wave of criticism coming his way as Gunners supporters took to social media to slam the retired midfielder for his incredulous quote.
Article continues below
The Bury-born native felt the need to clarify his position after the show went out last night, presumably after receiving a wave of online abuse from fans that reacted angrily to what was clearly meant to be a light-hearted joke.
A quick look back at Neville's timeline provides further evidence to back up his stance after he publicly praised the Arsenal veteran during live coverage of the Cup clash on the south coast yesterday, which also featured goals from fit-again Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil to secure victory for the visitors, even after a second-half fightback inspired by strikes from Chris O'Grady and Sam Baldock.
Never one to miss an opportunity, celebrity Arsenal fan Piers Morgan waded into the debate by poking fun at Neville (but also taking the mickey out of the fans that suffered from a sense of humour failure).
Wenger was full of praise for Rosicky in his post-match press conference, saying: "He was wonderful. A player we all love. If you love football, you love Rosicky. On top of that he's a fantastic character, scored and I'm very pleased for him."