Cristiano Ronaldo tackle: Phil Neville explains how it 'saved his Everton career'

Neville's tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo

Phil Neville’s Everton career ‘was saved’ after a brutal tackle on Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

After spending 10 years at Old Trafford, Neville made the move across the M62 to Everton.

However, the city rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool meant that Neville had some work to do to win over the Everton fans.

Everton boss David Moyes did his best to help by making Neville captain after just one month.

“He [David Moyes] made me captain after a month,” Neville told The Guardian in 2013. “If I’m honest, I didn’t want it. I just wanted to bed in and get a few mates. I really didn’t want the captaincy and for 18 months it was really difficult, the most difficult period of my career.

“There was a lot of scepticism from the other players. I was close to the boss and I can understand if they were suspicious of me. They had just finished fourth, they had qualified for the Champions League.

“They had some brilliant characters in that team – [Alan] Stubbs, [Lee] Carsley, [Thomas] Gravesen, [Alessandro] Pistone and many others – and the boss had put all that faith in me.

“I was replacing a great guy in David Weir, and he was brilliant, but it did take the others longer to accept me. The fans too, maybe. I had nailed my flag to the mast.

“Everyone knew I was a United fan. Liverpool’s supporters used to sing: ‘Your captain’s a Manc.’ Gary’s relationship with Liverpool didn’t help either.”

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League

However, that all changed in one moment.

In October 2008, ‘Fizzer’ faced his former Man Utd side at Goodison Park.

Everton managed a 1-1 draw in the game and Neville took the roof off the stadium with a crunching tackle on arguably the best player in the world at the time, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo stumbled away from a challenge with the ball as he attempted to get to his feet. But Neville saw his opportunity to win over the Everton fans once and for all – and crunch Ronaldo in the meantime.

“Do you know when you get them moments and you think, ‘I’ve got you here, I can go through you and win the ball!’?” Neville said on the UTD podcast. “And I thought wow, it was like having a tap-in!”

Neville lunged into a brutal challenge with Ronaldo still on the ground.

VIDEO: Phil Neville’s brutal tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo

Ouch.

Despite the Everton supporters loving it, Neville got booked for his troubles.

It was all worth it, though, because Neville claims that tackle went a long way to saving his Everton career.

How the tackle saved Neville’s Everton career

“It’s a great club, Everton,” he told The Guardian. “You don’t just go there to work, you have to be part of the family. And until then, I wasn’t part of the family. I was like a stepson. I made that tackle and I became a son.

“The kit-man at Everton, Jimmy Martin, always says ‘part of the gang.’ To be fair, he said it since day one but I never felt it until that tackle. I was one of them.

“And by the way, I didn’t do it on purpose. But I still had Giggsy, Rio [Ferdinand], Fletch [Darren Fletcher], all in my face.

Everton v Manchester United - Premier League

“It was funny because, after the game, Giggsy said, ‘I would have done the same thing.’ And I said to Giggsy, ‘I would have chased you down as well if you’d have tackled one of our players like that.’ It was just one of those things.

“Ronaldo was absolutely brilliant. He obviously rolled around, but the ball went up the other end. I was playing right-back and he was left-wing and he just high-fived and winked at me and said, ‘Great tackle, I’d have done the same thing.’

“It was great and Ronaldo was brilliant.

“They always said I was a Manc. The day I tackled Ronaldo, I did a really bad tackle on Ronaldo, was the day they changed their opinion on me because I went against the club they thought I loved.”

Neville went on to spend eight seasons at Everton. Whether he would have stayed on Merseyside for quite so long without that tackle is unknown.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo brushed himself down and went on to become one of the greatest players of all time…

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