Neville replaced Roy Keane as skipper when the combative Irishman left Old Trafford in 2005. However, for the last three seasons, Neville's career has been badly hampered by injury.
Under normal circumstances, Ryan Giggs would step into the breach but it has been noticeable this season that the honour has gone to Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian defender did the job at Everton on Saturday even when Neville was in the team.
And, while the 35-year-old remains club captain, Ferguson felt it was important to have some continuity with who did the job on the pitch.
"Gary is still club captain but I have been looking for someone who is going to be playing consistently every week," said Ferguson. "Over the last two or three years we have had to pass the baton along the line a few times.
"We have not had a consistent captain because Gary's injuries have prevented him playing all the time. If he was available all the time he would be the captain. He would have been on Saturday. But I have to look at the overall picture.
"With all due respect to Gary's time at United, he knows and I know, we don't play him every week and I am looking for someone who does (play)."
As a lifelong fan, the decision cannot have been an easy one for Neville to accept. Yet, ahead of Tuesday's Champions League encounter with Rangers, the former England star understands the logic.
"It is a great honour but it has never been the major priority for me," Neville said. "For most of my career I wasn't captain. It is not unusual."
The question for Ferguson now concerns who the job goes to on Tuesday night. Vidic has been one of the better United players this season despite the problems Ferguson's side have experienced conceding late goals at Fulham and Everton, and has only just signed a four-year contract extension.
Yet Rio Ferdinand, who is expected to return from a knee injury, has regularly captained United in the past when Neville and Giggs have been absent. Ferdinand is also the current England skipper, even if his own injuries have restricted him to just two appearances since inheriting the armband from central defensive colleague John Terry.
Ferguson may take into account Ferdinand's fitness when reaching his conclusion, although for now, he is giving nothing away.
"Do you complicate things on purpose?" he laughed, when asked whether Ferdinand or Vidic was going to get the job. "No comment. I haven't even discussed it."