Gary Neville has been a massive part of Manchester United’s history and truly deserves the title Red Legend. Consider his accomplishments:
602 game appearances, seven goals, nine Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, one Champions League, one FIFA World Club Cup and one Intercontinental Cup.
The legendary right-back retired from all forms of football with immediate effect on Wednesday. The veteran Red Devil hadn’t played since the New Years’ day victory over West Brom at the Hawthorns, when he was fortunate not to be dismissed for a foul on Graham Dorrans.
The majority of United fans will agree with his decision to retire. After his injury in March 2007, Neville was never the same player that owned the right flank with David Beckham. However, it’s important to look back on his career as a whole when judging his contribution to football.
Born in 1975 in Bury, Neville was part of the famous Fergie’s Fledglings side which won the 1992 FA Cup Final, and included the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Robbie Savage and Nicky Butt. He made his England debut in 1995 against Japan at the tender age of 20.
His greatest contribution to the United cause was in 1999 when he made 54 appearances for the Treble-winning side. When Beckham was acclaimed as the greatest crosser of the ball in 1999, Neville formed a formidable partnership with him and was never behind in providing innumerable, and invaluable assists.
He gradually established himself as the most accomplished right-back of his generation, eventually being named the Club-Captain by Sir Alex when Roy Keane departed.
It is rare in the modern game that you get an impassioned fan playing for the club they love. That is exactly what Gary Neville has been at United. His love for the club and commitment to the cause has been unwavering and he will be forever adorned by United fans.
But his legacy at United has not been just about playing great football.
His passion and unapologetic love for United has sometimes got him into trouble. But that is what we love about him. The one finger salute to the Liverpool fans, the crest pointing; the one-fingered gesture to former Manchester United player Carlos Tevez—these incidents are reasons why the fans loved him so much. As Sir Alex Ferguson has put it, "Gary was the best English right back of his generation. He is an example to any young professional; hard-working, loyal and intelligent."
Rio Ferdinand today named him as the greatest right-back to ever play in the Premier League. This, even by Gary’s standards, seems a pretty debatable accolade. The Premier League, over time, has produced some true gems of players to play in right-back position. These include Matt Lawrence(currently playing for Gillingham) and Lee Dixon(Arsenal), among others.
However, what would be interesting is to see how he would fare against the best right-backs that the game has ever seen? Can he compare against the international accomplishments of Lillian Thuram? Could Neville stand against the great Brazillian Cafu? Barney Cockhill compared the best right backs of all time? Do you agree with the list? Who do you think is the best right-back that ever was?