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Darth Maul
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Alex Ferguson fears Phil Neville could be subjected to David Beckham-style abuse next season in the aftermath of England's Euro 2000 debacle.

Such is the depth of anti-Manchester United feeling that the Old Trafford manager suspects that the England full-back will experience the kind of vitriol that followed Beckham's World Cup red card against Argentina in 1998.

It was Neville's tackle on Viorel Moldovan that presented Romania with the match-winning penalty that knocked England out of the European Championships last month.

'He made one mistake in one game but was probably one of England's best players in the match I saw against Germany,' said Ferguson today. 'I thought he had an outstanding game that day.'

Ferguson, however, is concerned that Neville's tackle against Romania will provide fuel for the anti-United brigade.

'Phil has a great attitude,' he said. 'He'll get over it. I do feel, though, that the agenda with both Phil and Gary Neville is not an honest one. It is an anti-United one.

'Any Manchester United player who plays for England will get unfair criticism. Sadly, it's part of a national disease. Last time, at the World Cup, it was David Beckham. Unfortunately for Phil and Gary, they're copping it this time.

'But they have proved themselves time and time again. They've got more medals than most of the other players in the country and they will win more in the future. They're great pros and there is no doubt about their ability to perform at the highest level.'

The Neville brothers are due back from holiday later this month but Ferguson will be without Dwight Yorke for the first stages of pre-season training. He is due to play two World Cup qualifying ties for Trinidad and Tobago against Canada and Mexico in the next fortnight.
 
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