Phil Neville is trying to give the England’s women team the same unquenchable thirst for success that made Manchester United unique under Sir Alex Ferguson as the Lionesses attempt to lift the SheBelieves Cup for the first time.
England only need to draw against hosts USA – the number one ranked team – to win the tournament, but Neville wants the players to head into it believing it is a cup final and only a victory will do.
The former England international admits he was left with an “empty feeling” at the end of his own playing career because he failed at international tournaments and he wants the current generation of female players to avoid similar disappointment.
“Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to us do you want to go to Blackpool on holiday or do you want to fly to the Moon,” said Neville, who has promised to let the players go to Disneyland on Thursday if they beat USA on Wednesday.
“His point was, anybody can go to Blackpool, but very few people get to go to the moon. Can you win a trophy? Lots of players win trophies, but very few teams keep on winning them. That is the hunger we had at Manchester United.
“That is what I spoke about in my interview for the England job, that’s what we are aiming to replicate. That is what the USA have, they have that arrogance, they believe they are the best team in the world and I want us to have that.
“It’s about developing a winning mentality. I want them to know it is about winning at all costs.
“Getting to a semi-final is great, but nobody remembers the teams who finished third or second, it’s about winning. It’s about having a team that wins cup finals and knows how to win them. That is what we want and that is why we are treating this game against the USA as a World Cup final.
“It could quite easily be the final in France next year, or a semi-final, and we need a team that has the mentality to win knockout games. Can we beat the best team in the world in a cup final?
“I will know a lot more about my players after this. If there are players who do not have that mentality, those that think beating France and drawing against Germany is good enough, then I won’t be able to take them to the World Cup next year.”
The Lionesses have reached the semi-finals of both the World Cup and the European Championships in the last three years, but the next step is the hardest one to take and that means being ruthless..
“When I talk about winning at all costs, that means challenging the laws of the game,” he added. “You have to be ruthless in this situation. The USA will do that.
“When I look back on my England career, it leaves me with an empty feeling. The best team I played in, at Euro 96, we should have won that tournament. Again in 2004, we should have won the tournament, but we kept getting beaten on penalties.
“Maybe we didn’t have that little bit of luck you need, but I look back and I have huge disappointment there. I want this England team to be different and I’ve said that to the players.
“You have a ruthlessness about yourself that, you know, it might not be pretty, it might not go the way you want, but you stay in the game, you're resilient and you win at all costs.
“And that was the mentality of the United side - you win at all costs. We didn’t handle the critical moments well enough with England.”