By Mike Rice.
Phil Neville falls upwards once again.
Despite his dismissal from Inter Miami, the Canadian Men’s National Team offered him an opportunity to bring his skills to the ultimately unsuccessful Nations League campaign. He now finds a quick route back into MLS with Portland Timbers.
It seems you can’t keep a former Manchester United player/friend of the Beckhams down, but not everyone is all that happy with his arrival in Portland, and quite rightly so.
Firstly, to the complaints around previous sexist tweets. Yes, there is no place for this, but Neville has found further work after this and repeatedly apologises. It’s not the reason not to hire Neville.
What will concern fans is the lack of quality in his tactical approach and game understanding, something important in the role of a Head Coach.
He has shown his qualities in motivating and making big calls with big names has proven successful at times. Benching Gonzalo Higuaín at Inter Miami and getting him to buy in and perform at a high level to scrape into the playoffs last season.
Inter Miami seemed to thrive under being the underdogs, proving the world wrong, whereas in 2023 they had time to organise their roster better and prepare for the arrival of Lionel Messi and co.
In the build-up to the summer transfer window, David Beckham and the upper management of the club had a big call to make. Inter Miami were one of the worst sides in the league and one of the greatest to ever play the game was arriving.
Neville could bring up injuries or lack of depth as funds were made available for the impending arrivals midseason.
Looking at how the team was performing under Neville, Inter Miami made the decision that a new coach needed to be in place to try and catch those above them and make a late-season push with Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba all arriving.
Once there became expectation on Inter Miami, we saw a similar pattern to Neville’s team. No clear identity, no clear attacking plan, something which was always going to spell the end, which may have come much sooner had a) Neville not been David Beckham’s friend or b) Messi’s arrival had been sorted sooner and the set-up for him could have been prepared more in advance.
So, a not-so-impressive stint in Miami now sees Neville with a Portland side that has missed out on the playoffs two seasons in a row now by just one point.
Big money was spent on Evander to add quality to the forward line, though their roster is still somewhat in need of improvement in different areas of the pitch having tried to keep a good level of consistency going into this season.
Now Neville will want to make a stamp in the side and bring in some new players. His history in doing so at Inter Miami wasn’t a total success, though they were under roster restrictions.
He is a coach with a fanbase against him in general, not the place you want to be when starting a new role. With plenty to prove, it surely must be sink or swim time for Neville in MLS.
Failure here without the safety net of a good friend as a boss could be a huge hit to his reputation, however that could be characterised right now.