VALENCIA (Spain) • Gary Neville was so enthused with his team's performance on Sunday that he announced he wants to continue as Valencia manager beyond the end of the season, when his contract expires, having previously said management is not his long-term goal.
Speaking after his team had come back from 0-1 and 1-2 down to draw 2-2 with Real Madrid in a La Liga match, the former England and Manchester United defender said that he wants to continue at the football club that he joined last month on a six-month contract.
The 40-year-old had made no commitment to continue before and had hinted that this was a temporary post, repeatedly referring to his role at the Spanish outfit as a short-term one and leading most in Valencia to believe that he would walk away in the summer.
Last week in an interview with Sky Sports, he said: "I'm not going to say where I want to end up, and it isn't in management or head coaching, so I want to be clear about that."
But on Sunday night, he said that he intends to carry on at the Mestalla, if given the opportunity.
"I was talking about 15 or 20 years' time! I don't want to be just a coach for six months. I hope I am here beyond six months but I have to prove myself," the Englishman said.
Valencia showed the kind of fighting spirit associated with Neville throughout his playing days as they wrestled their way back into the match before almost snatching it at the death.
"It was probably the best performance we've had over 90 (minutes)," Neville said. "The first 10 were difficult but when we started to play, we caused them problems."
Neville, however, is yet to register a La Liga victory in four attempts, sporting only a solitary win over third-tier Barakaldo in the Copa del Rey on his managerial CV thus far.
But there were clear signs of improvement and Valencia's play on Sunday will go some way to proving that the manager, regardless of his relationship with Peter Lim, the club's Singaporean owner, can bring about improvement.
However, the task of returning to the Champions League, the club's target, remains a huge one - they sit 10th, 13 points behind Villarreal, who are in fourth.
"I thought we played a fantastic match," Neville said. "What I'm now most interested in is if we're going to play like that against Granada (in the Copa del Rey). We have to turn those performances into results, or else what we've done tonight doesn't count for anything."
It is a rather different story for Real manager Rafael Benitez, with the club's board reportedly meeting to decide his future yesterday.
The Spaniard was badly in need of a win on his return to Valencia, where he won two La Liga titles in three years, to ease the constant speculation surrounding his future.
But he argued: "The question (about my future) only looks at the result, but the effort shown by the team deserves more praise than anything else."
A point left Real still four points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid and two behind Barcelona, having also played a game more than the European champions.
Benitez was publicly backed by Real president Florentino Perez, but media reports suggest French legend Zinedine Zidane, the club's reserve team coach, is waiting in the wings.
"I can't avoid other people speculating. All I can do is ensure the team work like they did today. The players put in a huge effort and unfortunately it wasn't enough for the three points," Benitez said.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE