Man Utd flops Kleberson and Djemba-Djemba forced Neville to confront Ferguson and leave Old Trafford

Manchester United’s decision to sign Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba forced Phil Neville out of Old Trafford, with the former Red Devils star admitting to having questioned Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to drop him for two midfield flops.

The Red Devils acquired Brazil international Kleberson 12 months after he helped his country to global glory at the 2002 World Cup. Cameroon star Djemba-Djemba was snapped up in the same summer, with Ferguson hoping to add more creativity and bite to his engine room.

Little value was found in two disastrous deals, with United quickly recognising the error of their ways. Neville, though, had already decided that enough was enough and opted to walk away from the club that nurtured him through the Class of ’92.

Scroll to continue with content

He completed a switch to Everton in 2015, with Ferguson’s reluctance to show faith in a home-grown star ultimately edging him through the exits.

Neville told BBC Sport, having taken in 386 appearances for United: "At the end I was really frustrated. It was probably in my last 18 months, where playing once every two or three weeks, or once every two or three games was not enough for me.

"I was 27, 28, I'd accepted it for much of my career with great players around me. Then we had a few players that came in like Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, and they started to play in front of me, and that was a real wake-up call for me, that I wasn't going to accept anymore.

"I spoke to Sir Alex. We both found it difficult, and agreed that it was probably best for me as an individual was to leave. It took a lot because United was my club, but I think it was the best thing that I did."

Phil Neville Manchester United
Phil Neville Manchester United

Part of the problem for Neville was that he never nailed down one role at United. As someone able to operate in defence or midfield, many considered his versatility to have worked against him.

Quizzed on that, the current coach of the England’s Women’s team said: "I think it was [a weakness]. It was in a way that I could never nail myself to one particular position, but what I would say is I played so many games in my career because I could play in so many positions.

"Sir Alex would always say to me I was so valuable because of my versatility, so I rather looked at it from a positive side - but looking back, if I'd have nailed a position, I maybe would have been a bit more successful."

What to read next