When I was just getting into football, Gary Neville was just getting into the first team.
He’d led United’s golden generation to FA Youth Cup glory and had his sights firmly set on Paul Parker’s number two shirt. Now, nearly 19 years later and after winning eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, the Intercontinental Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Champions League with the Reds, “G Nev” has left the building.
Bury-born and United through and through, he’s been the football-playing personification of Sir Alex’s gutsy grit and determination for the last two decades. A natural leader, a classic captain. Stocky yet speedy, Gary was the best English right-back of his generation. He won 85 caps with the Three Lions proudly on his chest, appearing at two World Cups and three European Championships. He had skill, he had personality and with David Beckham, he was part of the most productive right-sided partnership I’ve ever seen.
Gary played a massive part in a history-making era at the Theatre of Dreams, winning pretty much every trophy that’s been put in front of him and lifting many of them while wearing the captain's armband. Gary was a driving force in a team that gathered momentum and silverware alike, sweeping past the opposition in an all-conquering 20-year shift.
Some players just let their feet do the talking - not so Gary. He’s never shyed away from voicing his opinion and by his own admission (in a recent MUTV interview with Paddy Crerand) he is prone to the odd moan! I’ve interviewed Gary on many occasions, and every time we finished, he'd say “That went on a bit!”
When discussing Gary’s decision to hang up his boots, former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen said of him, “Right colour, wrong city." An appropriate tongue-in-cheek tribute from behind enemy lines. Gary certainly wasn’t loved by every football fan, but even his detractors respected his drive and if they could have, they would have signed him for