sport

Neville rejects Keys claims

Gary Neville has rejected claims he was asked to "nail" David de Gea following Manchester United's Premier League draw with Tottenham.

Neville, a Sky Sports analyst, was typically forthright in his assessment of De Gea's weak punch, which led to Clint Dempsey's injury-time equaliser and indicated Sir Alex Ferguson would share the same displeasure so obvious in the body language of his players.

Even though others disagreed, the assessment seemed pretty astute given Neville's knowledge of United, and the high praise he has earned in his role as a TV pundit.

However, it was subsequently suggested by former Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys that Neville had been asked to highlight De Gea's flaws, although he did not say who by.

Keys said of Neville on talkSPORT on Wednesday morning: "I think he was sent out with an agenda. I don't think Gary would have done that had he not been told: 'Listen, finger him'.

"I don't think you can nail a goalkeeper in that way can you?"

When informed of this observation via Twitter this morning, Neville's response was straight to the point.

"This is not interesting it's wrong," he said.

"I never have and never will take instructions off anybody to say anything!"

Neville subsequently removed the Tweet, even though the response was understandable given no one has questioned his objectivity before.

In addition, the England assistant-coach had already underlined how highly he rates De Gea in another Twitter posting.

"For the record I think De Gea can be a great GK. He is young in an unforgiving environment and will physically mature in next 2 years."

A spokesman for Sky Sports declined to comment when contacted by Press Association Sport.

It has been suggested Real Madrid would like to sign the 22-year-old, who has started 10 of United's last 11 games.

And Ferguson has been linked with numerous potential replacements, including Stoke's Asmir Begovic, having seemed to lose faith with De Gea's deputy, Anders Lindegaard, following his error-strewn performance at Reading at the beginning of December.

Nevertheless, it does seem likely De Gea will remain United's first choice at least until the end of the season, and World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks is amongst those who think Neville went too far.

"I was very upset to hear Gary Neville talking about how the players were disgusted with him (De Gea), how they were looking at him, after he hadn't punched the ball quite clear enough," said Banks.

"I thought to myself, 'hang on a minute, it's not just the goalkeeper that makes mistakes, everybody makes mistakes in football matches'.

"I couldn't quite believe that, because if anything he would've liked a bit of a lift.

"I found that a bit strange that he (Neville) was saying they'd go back in the dressing room and give him a telling off."

Like many, Banks is impressed with some aspects of the 22-year-old's game and encouraged him to work on his weaknesses - dealing with crosses and through balls.

"He's got very good reflexes, makes excellent saves you think other goalkeepers probably wouldn't have got," added Banks, who feels sympathy for goalkeepers trying to stop the modern ball.

"He's got lots of years left yet. What he needs to do is to practice on the crosses as much as he possibly can.

"I used to practice on my weaker things as much as I possibly could and it certainly did help me.

"It's much more difficult for a goalkeeper playing in today's game. The ball is moving all over the place.

"For me, that ball has taken a lot of the art of goalkeeping out of the game. I do feel sorry for goalkeepers today."