“It was the best game of football I have ever played in and I think all of us say the same thing,” he said. “I don’t remember the moment when Ryan picked up the ball, when it went in. I was just screaming. The penalty save, Keaney’s sending off, ten men, a pitch invasion, Ryan’s goal. It was a magical week because the week after we beat Juventus [3-2 in the Champions League semi-final, second leg from 2-0 down].
“I think it did top the Bayern game, because we didn’t play well in that game. It typified what Man United is – a great goal, fight, sending-off, pitch invasion. It was also the last ever FA Cup semi-final replay. The one replay they should keep is the Villa Park one. I went to two growing up, so for me it was a special game, for everyone it was a special game.”
It also prompted Neville to do something he had never done in a game before – or subsequently. “It was the only time in a football match where I ever smiled when I was playing,” he said. “That is the only time I have done that in a pressure moment. It was enjoyable as well as exciting.
“Peter Schmeichel had done his thigh in so I was taking the goal kicks. I walked towards the fans to take one and smiled thinking, ‘This is unbelievable, this’. You know when you just feel, ‘This is something special’.”
He was not thinking that, though, when his brother, Phil, brought down Ray Parlour and referee David Elleray pointed to the penalty spot at 1-1 with only seconds left on the clock. “I always remember Phil giving the penalty away and me thinking, ‘Oh my God, not you,’” Neville said. “Then Schmeichel saves it and you think ‘Wow’.”