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Apr 11, 2013

Neville lauds revolutionary Fergie

Gary Neville believes Sir Alex Ferguson should be remembered as a visionary who introduced the concept of squad rotation to English football.

• Neville: I've rejected manager jobs

The former Manchester United captain said Ferguson is a revolutionary whose fondness for selecting from a large group of players dated back to a League Cup tie against Port Vale in 1994.

Questions were asked by MPs in the House of Commons after the United boss rested many of his bigger-name players but selected such promising youngsters as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Neville himself, alongside the more established trio of Brian McClair, Denis Irwin and Roy Keane.

But Neville, who went on to make 602 appearances for England and is now a member of the Three Lions' coaching team, feels it proved Ferguson was years ahead of his time.

Speaking at the European Soccerex forum in Manchester, he said: "What he actually had was foresight. You look back at the Port Vale game in 1994 when the MPs were asking questions in Parliament. He said, 'I want four strikers, I want four centre backs'. No one in English football had ever done that."

United won the Champions League in 1999 when the strikers who started on the bench, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, came on to score the side's two late goals to defeat Bayern Munich and complete the Treble.

Before then, Ferguson had fielded a second-string team in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal, when Ryan Giggs came off the bench to net the winner.

"We finish stronger with a fit Ryan Giggs coming on to score that goal," Neville said. "Would he have scored it if he started the game?"

Ferguson was also influenced by AC Milan in his successful attempts to extend the careers of his experienced players, Neville revealed.

"There was a big push at Manchester United in sports science, they looked at AC Milan, at the likes of [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Paolo] Maldini, Cafu, Serginho, all playing at 37 or 38," Neville said.

Giggs is still playing for United at 39, and Neville, who retired just before his 36th birthday, said Ferguson treats his ageing players differently.

"He doesn't throw a player out of the door. You see it with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic: he manages them," he said. "There are five or six players that will play every week, but he changes the other five or six. When you get to 32, he uses you differently."

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