Neville: Arsenal became 'precious' in 2003

Gary Neville has told FourFourTwo he believes the Arsenal of now are a world apart from the strong and fearsome outfit that predated the Invincibles. 

The former Manchester United captain, currently part of Roy Hodgson's England coaching team, says the north Londoners became "precious" in their unbeaten season of 2003/04. 

Neville faced the Gunners numerous times over his 400 appearances for the Old Trafford side and, speaking exclusively in the September 2015 issue of FourFourTwo in shops from Saturday, has spoken out against his old rivals' mutation.

“I remember when Martin Keown, Tony Adams or Steve Bould would give our forwards a real whack. In a game between Arsenal and Manchester United, you'd expect both sets of defenders to be aggressive.

In 2003 they became a little more precious – they thought nobody could touch them

“Between 1996 and 2001 they were the best encounters because there were no holds barred – everyone was battling and nobody was whinging.

“Then Arsenal changed. In 2003 they became a little more precious – they thought nobody could touch them. They didn't have players who could stand up for them as much and that's what we still see today.”

Since retiring in 2011, former England right-back Neville has seen his popularity rise in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, having developed a somewhat fraught reputation during his playing days.  

Liverpool fans were particularly vociferous in their abuse against the Bury-born 40-year-old – a rivalry Neville lived by. 

“There's no doubt that, in my younger years, I said that I grew up hating Liverpool. I have no embarrassment about that whatsoever.

“I've never been to Liverpool for any other reason than football. I had a chat with Giggsy about this. He used to go out in Liverpool – I couldn't understand that.”

Interview: Andy Mitten

Read the full five-page One-on-One with Gary Neville in the September 2015 issue of FourFourTwo, available in print, on iPad and also iPhone from Saturday August 1. It's season preview time! FFT is on hand to give you the skinny on 128 teams across England and Scotland in our big, shiny and perfectly formed 100-page pre-season supplement. Plus there are interviews with Vincent Kompany, Aaron Ramsey, Daley Blind and Harry Kane, and we go behind the scenes for the first days of pre-season training with Bournemouth. What's more, there's Planet Football's Euro-league previews, the usual Upfront silliness and stacks of expert advice in Performance. Subscribe!