Inter Miami coach Phil Neville lashes out at social media

Inter Miami coach Phil Neville has never met Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores or University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz, but he sympathizes with them — and every other coach who has been the victim of vile attacks on social media.

Neville is especially sensitive about the topic these days as one former Manchester United teammate Steve Bruce was abused by fans on social media and fired by Newcastle last week and another, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now manager at the club, is facing some of the same after a 5-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.

“Social media is an absolute cesspit for people that are just the lowest of the lowest,” Neville said on Monday after his team trained in preparation for the road game Wednesday at Atlanta United. “I think it’s out of control. People don’t probably realize that the things they are writing hurt families, hurt human beings, people that have problems in their lives, and nothing gets done about it.

“It just seems to be accepted that you go out there and abuse whoever you want in the football world, a manager or player, and you can get away with it. If it happened on the street, you’d get arrested. But in football it just seems like they abuse, troll, treat people inhumanely. I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”

Shortly after being fired, Bruce, 60, revealed that he had been called “useless, a fat waste of space and a tactically inept cabbage head”. He said he was considering retirement because the fan abuse had taken its toll on his family.

“The Steve Bruce case went beyond criticism; that was a form of bullying, disgusting behavior, trolling, some of the most disgusting things I have ever read or seen in my whole life,” Neville said. “We live in an era where it’s seen as quite normal to ask people to be sacked, which I find absolutely incredible. If you were any other workplace and you walked into a shop and you said, `I want you to be sacked, I want you to be sacked,’ I think you would be reported to the police.”

He said it was particularly hurtful because he considers Bruce “the most humble, classiest man, helped me in my career, was a father figure for me. One thousand games as a manager, 950 as a player. The abuse was disgusting.”

He feels similarly about the way Solskjaer is being skewered after the loss to Liverpool. He recalled two lopsided Manchester United losses when he was a player in 1996. That team lost back-to-back games 5-0 to Newcastle and 6-3 to Southampton and went on to win the Premier League title.

“I’ve played on United teams that lost 5-nil,” Neville said. “These things happen in football. I think the sensationalism of everything now is just out of control.

“United lost a game of football 5-nil to Liverpool. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was probably a real sickening blow for everybody that’s ever played, supported, or been involved with Manchester United; but it’s as if United has never lost 5-nil ever in history. This has happened and United bounced back and won things. I lost at St. James Park 5-nil. Philippe Albert chipped Peter Shmeichel and it felt no different. The only difference was there was not a billion people on Twitter thinking they knew best about this, that and the other.”

Beckham frustrated

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham, another former Manchester United teammate of Neville’s, was back at DRV PNK Stadium for the 5-1 win over Cincinnati on Saturday after some time away. Neville joked that “we could have done with him coming about five games ago, to our away games, and he would have been a lucky mascot.”

Despite an expensive roster, Miami is in 10th place with three games to go, its playoff chances hanging by a thread.

“There is frustration there from [Beckham], like there is from everyone,” Neville said. “We’re virtually relying on others to get us into the playoffs. I think he expected us to be higher than what we were but realizes the challenges in front of us and the obstacles we’ve had. The conversations I’ve had mirrored the conversations we’ve had as a staff and the way I feel is that it’s frustrating.

“We should be higher up the table with the players we’ve got. His demands are he wants better. I feel exactly the same. The one challenge he set is let’s win the next three or four games. Let’s finish on a high.”

Figal, Robinson doubtful: Nico Figal did light training for first time since injuring his calf three weeks ago. Robbie Robinson (stomach bug) jogged but is still not 100 percent. Both are doubtful for Wednesday.

This story was originally published October 25, 2021 5:53 PM.

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Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.

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