Manchester United defender Gary Neville has retired from football with immediate effect, the player announced on Wednesday.
The veteran fullback, who turns 36 later this month, has not played since Premier League leaders United’s victory away to West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Day.
Neville, a one-club player, made 602 appearances for United, scoring seven goals, and also won 85 England caps.
“I have been a Manchester United fan all my life and fulfilled every dream I’ve ever had,” Neville said in a United statement. “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 and for me that time is now,” he added with United five points clear at the top of the English table.
“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.”
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the only club manager Neville had worked under, said: “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.”
Neville signed for United as a teenager in July 1991 and was a member of the celebrated side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 where his teammates included fellow future first-team regulars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, his brother Philip and David Beckham.
His trophy-laden career saw Neville, who became United’s club captain in 2005, lift the Champions League in 1999 as well as winning eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and the Fifa Club World Cup.
No such success came his way with England for whom Neville played in two World Cups (1998 and 2006) and three European Championships (1996, 2000 and 2004).
“There are so many people I want to thank and, of course, top of that list is Sir Alex,” Neville said. “He has given me so many opportunities and countless support over the last 20 years — he is truly one of the greatest managers — and I have to thank him for that.”
Neville has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and it appeared his time as a top-flight club player was fast coming to an end.
He was nicknamed “Red Nev” after becoming something of an unofficial shop steward while on England duty and Ferguson, who praised the defender’s leadership qualities, said: “All the young players who have sought his advice on many matters, particularly on contract issues, owe him a great debt.”
Neville, who thanked fans, coaches and teammates, endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful after his raucous celebrations following Rio Ferdinand’s injury-time winner against United’s bitter rivals, Liverpool, in January 2006 for which he was fined £5 000 by the Football Association.
Neville hinted he might stay on at Old Trafford by saying: “The club will always be a part of my life going forward.”
And United chief executive David Gill added: “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.” — AFP