English Premiership

Neville calls it a day

2011-02-03 11:36
Gary Neville (File)
London - Former England defender Gary Neville retired on Wednesday, finally giving in to injury after a 20-year career in which he lived every Manchester United supporter's dream.

Neville, who turns 36 on February 18, spent his entire career representing the club he supported as a boy and did it during its most successful era.

With David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and brother Phil, Neville graduated from the side that won the 1992 FA Youth Cup to provide the platform for United's dominance of English football.

As vocal in his dislike of Liverpool - United's traditional rival - as he was in support of United, Neville signed for the Red Devils in July 1991.

He played 602 first-team games, winning the Champions League, eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cup titles, the Intercontinental Cup and the Club World Cup along the way.

He would have won even more titles but was increasingly sidelined with recurring injuries, starting only 31 Premier League matches over the past four seasons.

"I have been a Manchester United fan all my life and fulfilled every dream I've ever had," Neville said. "Obviously I am disappointed that my playing days are at an end, however it comes to us all, and it's knowing when that time is.

"For me, that time is now. I have played in the most incredible football teams, playing with some of the best players in the world as well as against them, and I have been lucky to have been part of the team's achievements and the club's great success."

Neville played 85 times for England, making him his country's most capped right back. He played at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, missing the 2002 and 2010 tournaments because of injury or lack of match practice.

"Gary was the best English right back of his generation," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "He is an example to any young professional: hardworking, 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."

Stung by the failure to win a trophy in 1996, Ferguson sold stalwarts Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis to make space for the youngsters.

Neville replaced England international Paul Parker as first-choice right back as United immediately won the Premier League and FA Cup double.

His partnership with Beckham on the right side of the team flourished for both United and England. The pair dovetailed instinctively, with Neville's willingness to support Beckham allowing his more glamorous and famous colleague to surge forward and deliver his trademark crosses.

But Beckham also knew when to pull away from the wing or drop deep to allow Neville space for his own dangerous deliveries.

Neville scored seven goals for United.

Articulate and outspoken in his views on the game, Neville has long been spoken of by commentators as a potential coach.

"His presence in the dressing room and leadership qualities have been an asset to me as a manager," Ferguson said. "All the young players who have sought his advice on many matters, particularly on contract issues, owe him a great debt."

Chief executive David Gill agreed.

"I know from my many dealings with him over the years that he's always had the club's best interests at heart," Gill said. "While this illustrious chapter in his career has finished, his experience, commitment and energy will ensure he will continue to play a part in the life of the club - whether on the coaching or the commercial side."

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