Gary Neville has defended his integrity as a pundit after being questioned over his relationship with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Neville has found himself between a rock and a hard place in recent weeks as Manchester United’s form continues to slide.
The Sky Sports pundit has himself been criticised for not openly stating Solskjaer should be sacked, with some saying his personal relationship with a former teammate weakens his neutrality and objectivity.
“There are people saying this is the worst moment of my punditry career,” Neville said. “They say I am not being honest. But I am not paid on TV to sack managers and I ain’t doing it.
“I know the impact of Gary Neville saying a Man United manager should be sacked. For the pundits who have said it then “Well done” but it’s not my style. When I see another pundit calling for any sacking, I cringe. My stomach turns.
“My line is crossed with that. Maybe their line is in a different place.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Neville added that “this season has been a shock” to Manchester United, and “the signing of some very good players adds further condemnation to these recent performances.”
“I think United with this squad should challenge for the title,” he said. “But we are in a really bad position and it’s heartbreaking to watch Ole. For Man United fans who loved him and ex-players who still love him.”
On Solskjaer specifically, Neville admitted: “It’s not easy commentating on a former teammate.
“I think Ole not sorting out the compactness of the team earlier was silly. It was a glaring tactical omission. I am happy to say that. Not good enough. But I just won’t say the other thing. Not about Ole or any manager. I never have.
“I had to decide 11 years ago what type of person and pundit I wanted to be. When Arsene Wenger was dying at the end I was critical of Arsenal fans marching against him. There were complaints when I called one of them a muppet.
“As pundits we have to decide whether we are comfortable asking for a fellow human being to be sacked. I feel I am a respectable human being.”
Neville further underlined his impartiality.
“I text Ole that once because I thought it was getting that bad. But I don’t have any football communication with them, even when my brother and Giggsy were working at the club.
“A sporting director at another club asked to meet so he could give me some insight on his place and I said no. It would compromise me. I don’t have a personal relationship with anybody in football including at United.
“It means I can speak openly on TV about anything or anybody.”
Put to him that Neville has sacked a number of managers in his position as Salford co-owner, he replied: “Absolutely 100 per cent I have. That’s my job. My club. That’s not my job with Manchester United.
“Look if I was in charge of the football club I would certainly have to make different decisions than what you hear on TV over the last 11 years. However I am not willing to say that on TV.”
Denying that that undermined his position as a pundit, Neville countered: “It doesn’t. I just won’t go there. I’m on the fence for the first time!
“When Sky get rid of me in three or fours years I hope I look back and recognise that I set myself boundaries and never went outside them.”