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By ESPN Staff
Jan 24, 2006

PFA on 'passionate' Neville's side

Gary Neville has been backed by the Professional Footballers' Association following his ill-advised celebration of Manchester United's late winner in front of the Liverpool fans at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Having failed to witness the original incident, referee Mike Riley is due to offer his verdict on Neville's actions to the Football Association later today.

Soho Square chiefs will also assess the written observations of Greater Manchester Police, who have already expressed their concern at Neville's shirt-clutching antics, which came immediately after Rio Ferdinand's last-minute winner.

But PFA deputy chief executive Mick McGuire insists the United skipper should not be condemned for his outpouring of emotion.

'It was a sign of passion and commitment to his club,' McGuire told Sky Sports News.

'When you look at it, all he is doing is kissing his badge, which is something you see Frank Lampard doing on a regular basis. It is a way for players to show their feelings towards their own club.'

There are some, such as Liverpool's Jamie Carragher, who felt Neville had 'crossed the line' of acceptability in racing 60 yards to make his gesture.

However, Carragher did acknowledge Neville had been the victim of some personal abuse from the Liverpool fans, while McGuire insists the whole episode should be put into context.

'He is a Manchester United player and games do not come any bigger than the one on Sunday,' said McGuire.

'Gary is the captain and he does have a responsibility to behave in a proper manner. But there is also a responsibility on the captain to show leadership and how much the match means to him.

'Players and managers are often criticised by supporters for not showing enough passion, then they get criticised for showing they care. You can't have it both ways.'