Sir Alex Ferguson backed Gary Neville to be a success at Valencia as the England coach took training for the first time in Spain on Monday, saying everything the former defender touches “turns to gold”.
Neville, 40, has signed a six-month contract at the Mestalla but spoke like a man planning much further into the future at his press unveiling last Thursday, revealing he will move his young family to Spain in the coming weeks.
Ferguson managed Neville for almost 20 years in the first team at Manchester United, with the right-back winning two Champions Leagues and eight Premier League titles under the tutelage of the Scot.
And as he takes his first steps into club management with a Champions League tie against Lyon on Wednesday, Ferguson has backed ex-England international Neville – who will have younger brother Phil on his staff in Spain – to thrive.
“Typical Gary,” Ferguson said at the TechCrunch Disrupt London event. “He’s got the courage to do something like this. It’s a big step for him – owning Salford City Football Club to managing Valencia.
“But he’s got the football experience and he’s got that role with England that will help him too and the most important thing that he’s got, he’s got an incredible determination about him. He’s a good decision maker, he’s prepared to make a decision and he’s got that positive attitude.
“He’s a winner, he’s an absolute winner and I think he’ll do really well.
“His brother Phil was a far more talented footballer. Everyone in England wanted Phil and we took Gary simply because he was determined, and he was a centre-back at that time.
“But he had something in him and he made himself a footballer. He worked, he practised, he had an incredible determination that made him what he is today.
“He’s an incredible human being, everything he touches turns to gold. I think he will do well. He’ll be a success.”
Many of Ferguson’s former players have gone on to have successful management careers with Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce both making favourable reputations for themselves in the Premier League.
But all of their jobs thus far have been in Britain and Ferguson believes it is crucial that Neville learns Spanish and embraces his surroundings if he is to succeed.
“I spoke to him, he came to my house. I said, ‘be yourself, trust your conviction which you’ve done throughout your playing career. It never let you down’,” he said. “And I think that will help him.
“He’s got the language barrier and he’s going to try and correct that and make sure he’s taking the lessons every day which is a proper step, he has to do that. He has to communicate with the players and they’ll appreciate he’s trying.
“English people, British people don’t necessarily buy into languages, they always depend on people being able to speak English. In this situation Gary has got to learn Spanish.”