As any fan of ’90s football will know, Manchester United’s academy has long been the most celebrated in the Premier League.
England internationals including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes began their careers at United and, while the turnover hasn’t been quite as spectacular of late, the academy still contributed several members of England’s 2018 World Cup squad.
A few current managers have passed through the ranks, too: Giggs is currently in charge of the Welsh Men’s national team, while Phil Neville has tasted defeat in just one of his first eight games as England Women’s coach.
Phil’s brother Gary, however, remains the archetype of a successful academy product, earning 85 England caps as a player and winning two Champions Leagues with United before dipping his toe into the management waters with Valencia, so when he offers advice to young pros they would be well advised to listen.
At the entrance to United’s academy, aspiring pros can find a letter containing 14 pieces of advice from the elder Neville brother.
Just like with Sir Bobby Robson’s 11 commandments of football, they reveal a lot about the person writing them as well as offering a handy guide to those who will come across the advice during their time on the club’s books.
Gary Neville might not have been the most naturally gifted of United’s famed ‘Class of 92’, but he always knew his limits and worked as hard as he could to make the most of the abilities he did have.
Of course, he wouldn’t have been at Manchester United to begin with without having at least some talent, but these demonstrate how he was able to succeed where more naturally gifted players failed.
Here are Neville’s pieces of advice in full, as per The Times.
1. Choose who you follow.
2. Give 100 per cent all the time. You have never arrived at Manchester United so you must maintain a high standard all the time, every day.
3. Always remember why you began to play football - you loved it for its own sake and not as a means to get money, fame, girls, cars etc.
4. Ownership and responsibility - take care of your own affairs thus learning to do things for yourself, and not relying on others to do things for you: bank accounts, passports and so on. Make your own decisions.
5. Analyse and assess your own performance - be your own coach.
6. Have a strong work ethic - work harder than anyone else and you’ll overtake players with far more talent than you have.
7. Give the profession all that you have got, and you’ll have no regrets.
8. You have to have character and personality to play for Manchester United which you can develop over time.
9. Be a risk taker because it is a different kind of leadership.
10. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin, and you have to deal emotionally with both experiences. Remember that if you win or lose you can still have that Chinese on a Saturday night - keep things in perspective.
11. Learn more about yourself and what works for you.
12. Don’t leave anything to chance.
13. There are different routes to reach the top and very few players go ‘route one’ - like [Ryan] Giggs or [Wayne] Rooney. The challenge for you is to find the right pathway because we’re all different.
14. The ability to deal/cope with injuries is vital and should be approached with a strong mentality. See injury as an opportunity to develop body strength, and ‘reset’ your mind (refresh) for the various challenges ahead.