Gary Neville reveals he urged Man Utd board to sign Man City star

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Joao Cancelo was recommended to Manchester United by Gary Neville

Joao Cancelo was recommended to Manchester United by Gary Neville (Getty)

Gary Neville has revealed that he recommended the signing of Joao Cancelo to Manchester United in 2016.

Neville managed Cancelo during his brief stint as Valencia manager but the Portugal international ended up moving to Juventus before he was sold to Manchester City in a £60 million deal in 2019.

Cancelo was named man of the match by Neville for his display in City’s 2-0 victory over United in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday.

And Neville has revealed that he alerted United to Cancelo’s talent several years ago.

‘I love him as a lad,’ Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.

‘I absolutely loved him when he was out there. There was a vulnerability about him when he was out there because he was so young.

Joao Cancelo was one of Man City's standout performers in their win at Old Trafford

Joao Cancelo was one of Man City’s standout performers in their win at Old Trafford (AFP via Getty)

‘He’s so hard on himself, in training, I don’t know if he is still the same now. He used to be his critic. If he made a mistake, he’d throw his arms on the ground and start cursing himself and I used to say to him, ‘give yourself a break’. It’s hard enough in football as it is without being too tough on yourself, you will give the ball away, you will make mistakes, you will give goals away.

‘I had him as a very young player at Valencia but you could just see exceptional talent.

‘I made calls back to England, you could imagine to which club I’m talking about, [saying], ‘if you’d ever take a young player, he’s one you’d take’.

‘Him and Andre Gomes, I felt were exceptional talents that could come and grace the Premier League. Andre has had bad injuries which stopped him.

‘But I think the education Joao Cancelo had in Italy would have been a good one for him. I think Italy toughens you up from a defensive perspective being at Juventus.

‘When City paid £60m for him the only doubt I had was the fact did City need to spend £60m on a full-back again because they already had players in those positions. Not any doubt whatsoever about what this player was.

‘He’s an athletic machine. He’s a brilliant runner, he’s a beautiful runner with the ball, he’s a tough kid as well. He’s strong, he’s brave in his defending, he affects the game in defence and attack. He’s delivering on what I thought he would in terms of you see players sometimes not realising their potential, he is realising his potential. I couldn’t be happier for him as a person.’

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