“I have been a Manchester United fan all my life and fulfilled every dream I’ve ever had.”
On the second of February 2011, one of Manchester United’s true greats Gary Neville, announced his retirement at the age of nearly 36. The England defender will always be remembered as not only a top-class footballer but also as someone who lived and breathed Man United. He brought an end to his illustrious career with immediate effect when he was removed from United’s 25-man European squad, calling time on a career on the Old Trafford pitch that started only 35 days after I myself came into existence.
Neville made his first team debut in September 1992, having excelled as a CB in the famous youth team of ’92, and became a first team regular by September 1994. Despite lacking any extraordinary physical presence, standing at only 5ft 10″ with no outstanding pace, Gary was able to command a starting place at such an early-age thanks to his intelligence and professionalism. He became the regular United RB, despite being relatively inexperienced in that position because Ferguson thought he was just a few inches short of being a CB, which he still to this day believes would have been his best position, even though he would have initially struggled to get past Bruce & Pallister.
& Then There Were Two…Giggs, Butt, Beckham, Gary, Phil, Scholes
Since 1992, the ex-England international went on to make 602 appearances overall (400 exactly in the league) and become United’s fifth most loyal servant ever. In his one-club career he managed to collect 8 Premier League medals, 3 FA Cup Medals, A Champions League medal, 2 League Cup Medals and a Cup Winners Cup Medal. In every single one of these games Neville wore the shirt with pride and endeared himself to the fans with his passion, hard work and Mancunian distaste for the Scouse demographic, synonymous with the chant; ‘Gary Neville is a Red… We Hate Scousers.’ The outspoken Mancunian may not be the most popular character outside of Old Trafford but he still remains the most capped England RB ever (85 apperances).
Upon the departure of Roy Keane in 2o05, Neville was made club captain. The Bury lad wore the armband with pride and must have surely motivated himself to overcome some terrible injuries just to captain his childhood side one last time. Regrettably, he never wore the armband at his peak but, much to my surprise, he managed to play 58 times in his last two full seasons (08-10). Gary may not have been blessed with the natural talent of Giggs, Scholes or Beckham, who he formed such an effective partnership with, but simply due to his determination to play for United he will go on to be remembered as one of the best RB’s of his generation.
Gary Valiantly Recovered Repeatedly From Injury, Against all the Odds
Neville leaves his post as Club Captain knowing the future is bright for United. Having lost his first team place a few years ago he realises we have excellent experience in the position already, with Brown & O’ Shea, but also have arguably the most promising right-sided full back in the world, Rafael Da Silva, who has already been in a Brazil squad with the likes of Dani Alves & Maicon at the tender age of 20. Looking even further down the line, United also have Reece Brown (Wes’ highly rated brother) along with Fornasier and Vermijl (two young imports) who should be challenging for his place in the future. All these players will undoubtedly prosper into talented players but will they manage to embody the spirit, determination and professionalism half as well as a true United legend, Gary Neville.
Neville’s Raw Passion- Something You Either Love/Hate
It is yet to be decided what the future holds for the recently retired professional: whether he will take a break, join the coaching staff or even venture into the Sky Super Sunday box but one thing is for sure, we haven’t heard the last of the Mr Gary Neville!