Gary Neville: Did the League ever have a better right-back?
“Leaving Manchester United in football terms is like falling off the end of a cliff.” Gary Neville – 27 Mar 2009.
The first of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity has gone. Despite achieving everything he could as a professional football – team or individual – it is perhaps unfortunate that Gary Neville will be most remembered for sprinting down the touchline and mocking opposition fans. Or that would be the case for any other fan. But not those associated with Manchester United.
There was simply no limits to his success, just choose any from his eight league titles, three FA Cup’s and Two European titles. Neville, described by Sir Alex Ferguson as ‘the best English right back of his generation’, will be remembered by United fans for his, let’s say, over-the-top bursts of excitement as much as he would be for the array of silverware he helped the club earn.
Neville was no ordinary full-back. There was something dissimilar about Neville compared to others; there was something very un-English in his play. He offered solidity at the back, a calm, assured presence, and occasionally, a wild lunge for good measure. He offered something going forward, too. He was a creative force – forever starting attacking moves and spreading play down the channels, and sometimes, create a goal or two himself. To an extent, he was the complete player.
Perhaps the reason why Neville was so great is that he was hardly the ‘bling-bling’ type. He can’t score a goal to save his life, but he did the important things right. As a right back, that’s all that counts. And understandably, many regard him as the greatest right back of this generation. Not far off by any stretch.
Sir Alex led the tributes expressing the importance of such a player: “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. His impact on the club in general has been huge; his presence in the dressing room and leadership qualities have been an asset to me as a manager.”
To end, I’ll leave you with something I’d regard as ‘Neville-gold’. Introducing new-boy Michael Owen to Danny Welbeck, Neville said: “This is Danny. He’s 18 and he’s won the league.” Farewell, Gaz.