Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville called time on his trophy-laden playing career on this day in 2011.
By his own admission, Neville had to work for everything he got from football.
A graduate of the famous Class of ’92, the Bury-born full-back spent his entire career at Manchester United, captaining the side to Premier League and Carling Cup glory following Roy Keane’s departure from Old Trafford.
Neville, along with younger brother Phil, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt, represented a new generation of players around which Sir Alex Ferguson built his all-conquering team.
He made his United debut as a 17-year-old substitute in a UEFA Cup tie against Torpedo Moscow in September 1992, although his involvement was so fleeting, it amounted to a single throw-in.
Never as naturally gifted as Giggs, Beckham or Scholes, Neville knew his limitations from the off and successfully bridged the gap with a diet of hard work and commitment.
He said as he announced his retirement: “Some players can play at 100 per cent and drop by three per cent and be okay. With me, it was 100 per cent or nothing. There was no in-between.’”
In all, Neville made 602 senior appearances for United in a career during which he established himself as a formidable leader, although his passion for the club did get him into trouble in 2006 when he was fined £5,000 and warned as to his future conduct after he ran 50 yards to celebrate Rio Ferdinand’s late winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford in front of the visiting fans.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) February 2, 2011
He said later: “Are you meant to smile sweetly and jog back to the halfway line?”
Neville, now a respected and astute television pundit, won eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and two Champions League titles as well as the Intercontinental and FIFA World Club Cups with United, and was capped 85 times by England.
He called it a day at the age of 35 with injuries and the advancing years having taken their toll, but with a ringing endorsement from the manager he had served so well.
Ferguson said: “Gary was the best English right-back of his generation. He is an example to any young professional, hard-working, loyal and intelligent.”