Gary Neville has revealed his personal pre-match routine while playing for Manchester United, speaking on the 25th anniversary of his debut for the Reds.
Speaking to ManUtd.com, the Sky Sports pundit admitted to a series of strange superstitions and traditions,
Saturday marked 25 years since Neville made his debut for Man United’s first team in the UEFA Cup against Torpedo Moscow.
“Over the years, as part of that you develop a little routine, even down to being sat in the right seat on the coach or putting the right Tubigrip tape on,” he said.
Neville even insisted on using the exact same width of tape, and the same pair of scissors before each game.
“When I went back for Michael Carrick‘s testimonial the other month, they didn’t have my tape. I couldn’t believe it. They’d had to keep that tape for 20 years. Had to. It was my tape. Tubigrip. D width. Not E. Not C. D width. And then two tie-ups, always cut with the same scissors.”
After Sir Alex Ferguson had delivered his team talk, Neville would go into the second part of his routine.
“I sat in the players’ lounge toilets – the same cubicle – for 15 minutes,” he said. “When the manager finished his team-talk, I’d get my kit on and go sit on the toilet, with the lid down, and just read the programme in complete peace for 15 minutes.
“Tranquillity. I did that every game.”
Many players and managers actually go and sit in toilet cubicles pre-match. Carlo Ancelotti once told of how ahead of important games he’d take his phone to the toilet and play Doodle Jump for five minutes to clear his head and distract himself briefly.
Yet Neville admitted he may have had tradition for tradition’s sake.
“Even by that stage, at 17, I just knew I had to have a massage on my lower back. I didn’t even have a bad back. The physio, Jim McGregor, hated it.
‘What’s this for?’
‘I just need it.’
And he’d have to give it to me. He was angry all the way through. Spitting. Every game, for 25 years, I had that massage on my lower back,” Neville revealed. “I just needed it.
“Having everything just right calmed me right down. I very, very rarely got nervous over the course of my career. I was always intense before a game, but hardly ever affected by nerves.”
Neville’s routine may sound ridiculous, but given it made him one of the club’s finest ever defenders and saw him win the lot, you can’t argue with it.