Gary Neville has revealed how facing David Ginola made him feel ‘most nervous’ during Manchester United’s pursuit of the treble.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side completed a historic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League during the 1998/99 season, though the club went into the last game of the league season needing to beat Tottenham at Old Trafford to guarantee the championship.
Facing Neville in direct opposition that afternoon was Spurs star Ginola – a player we took delight in covering during a recent episode of our 90’s Football Hall of Fame podcast – with the fleet-footed Frenchman having terrorised Premier League defences throughout the campaign.
Ginola was named as the PFA Player’s Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year despite Spurs finishing a lowly 11th, and former Manchester United full-back Neville has recalled his apprehension ahead of the final day meeting following his struggles against the winger earlier in the campaign.
“I have to say earlier on in the season I was sent off at White Hart Lane against Ginola,” Neville told Sky Sports. “This was the game I was most nervous about out of the three.
“I was fine in the FA Cup final and fine in the European Cup final but this game made me nervous because he gave me a tough time earlier on in the season and I thought, ‘If we win the league there’s a pretty good chance he’ll have a massive impact on the game’.”
Neville revealed how he urged David Beckham to help combat the threat of the Frenchman, Ginola later forced off through injury after being on the receiving end of an aggressive approach from the hosts.
“I remember saying to Becks before this game – and you can see in the first few minutes, Becks was really aggressive – ‘You’re going to have to come back and make sure he just doesn’t get any encouragement.’
“Ginola was typical of any forward player that if you gave him encouragement in that first 10-15 mins he can take the game away from you. We were really aggressive.
“I didn’t mean to kick him, it was pretty innocuous but he had to go off shortly after this and it felt like a big moment in the game.”