Following the announcement that Gary Neville will retire from football with immediate effect, Sarah had asked if I would write a piece for The Faithful. Not only is it an absolute pleasure to be asked to join the great writers on this fantastic site, but also to be given the opportunity to write my first official piece on one of Manchester United’s most passionate and long-standing servants, someone who bleeds Manchester United to the core. It is however, unfortunate to be doing this as we say farewell to a member of our small elite group of incredibly loyal players.
As a football professional, few people can argue with the success he has had throughout his career. Spanning almost 20 years, he has made over 600 appearances, all for one single football club, Manchester United. During this time, he has one Champions League medal, eight Premier League titles, three FA Cup successes, two League Cups, the Intercontinental Cup and also the Fifa World Club Cup.
Following his announcement to retire, Alex Ferguson commented on his professionalism, leadership and impact, “Gary was the best English right-back of his generation. He is an example to any young professional; hard-working, loyal and intelligent. As a United fan born and bred, his fantastic career at Old Trafford has cemented his place in the affection of the club’s supporters everywhere.” He also added, “His impact on the club in general has been huge; his presence in the dressing room and leadership qualities have been an asset to me as a manager. All the young players who have sought his advice on many matters, particularly on contract issues, owe him a great debt.”
On a more personal level, Gary Neville can best be described as the Marmite of football, United fans love him, pretty much everyone else hates him, especially our beloved Scouse friends from the red half of Liverpool. This brings me nicely on to the single most lasting memory that will immediately spring to mind whenever the name Gary Neville is mentioned. January 22nd 2006, Old Trafford vs Liverpool. Rio Ferdinand scores a 90th minute winner prompting Gary Neville to sprint half the length of the pitch directly towards the Liverpool fans in the away section, jumping around pulling at his shirt, screaming and generally going bonkers! An incident that saw him pulled in front of the FA and fined £5,000. Gary has not only been a top Manchester United player, but also a passionate fan.
Even the fierce rivalry and hatred with Liverpool cannot get in the way of the admiration for England’s most capped right-back, fellow defender Jamie Carragher said of Gary in a recent interview for talkSPORT, “For me he’s the best full-back the Premier League’s had. And also just behind David Beckham probably one of the best crossers of the ball we’ve seen.” Given that Gary Neville was probably one of the main reason’s for keeping Jamie Carragher out of the England side, that’s high praise indeed.
The second memory I would like to share from Gary Neville’s illustrious career isn’t, I think, an entirely obvious choice, the reason being, he wasn’t actually playing at the time. Gary wasn’t even selected in the squad for the dramatic penalty shootout win against Chelsea in the 2008 CL final in Moscow yet the picture below sums up just how much Manchester United means to him.
Gary Neville, on behalf of The Faithful and Manchester United fans all over the world, I would like to say thank-you, thank-you for your magnificent, loyal service to our historic club, I hope that you have the opportunity to continue your career at Old Trafford, bringing your passion and valuable experience to the current and future players at our club.