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"He was so embarrassed" | Steve McManaman and Neville's headbutt

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

19:22 7 Mar 2020

Gary Neville's headbutt on Steve McManaman in 2004 was as fiery a moment as any in the history of the Manchester derby.

The United right-back, who McManaman accused of theatrically diving for a penalty, saw red when he squared up and led with his head towards McManaman during the fourth round Fa Cup tie.

United went on to win the match 4-2 but only after the mass melee that broke out in wake of the headbutt.

On the bench for Manchester City that day, Stephen Elliott said the controversial moment was still his residing memory whenever he thinks of the Manchester derby.

Instead of anger or physical pain, Elliott said, McManaman was mostly embarrassed that he let Gary Neville get away with the incident.

"He was so embarrassed, 'That, oh my God, I've let Gary Neville headbutt me in front of 70-80,00 people.'

"He was more embarrassed rather than anything else. I know it was a Manchester derby but I think that came from the Liverpool-Manchester United connection even though it was a Manchester City dressing room.

"In the year that McManaman was there when I was there, I never saw any emotion out of him but he was absolutely fuming."

Asked if he was the sort of player who would look for revenge after a confrontation, Elliott joked that he was rarely caught up in tackles.

"I don't know. I never made tackles. I didn't get headbutted," the former Republic of Ireland international laughed.

Standing at 5'8", Elliott said he had to learn to look out for himself on the pitch: "You had to learn how to look after yourself.

"You just protect yourself. I'll tell you who was the toughest player I ever played against.

"He was horrible to play against and I used to enjoy the battles but for some reason, he was just the strongest and most vicious but fair if that makes sense. He'd be in your back down the back of your legs but winning the ball and getting your leg again."

In terms of fighting, Elliott said he spent his career leaving it "to the headcases in the team."

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