Man Utd legend recalls how being embarrassed by Stoke City star forced him into retirement


The honours list is pretty extensive on Gary Neville’s CV thanks to the best part of two decades while Manchester United ruled the roost.

But he admits he started a season too many – and it was an afternoon at Stoke City when he was lucky to stay on the pitch that it really sunk in.

Neville had already been booked on his 600th appearance for Man Utd in October 2010 when he scythed down Matty Etherington as the winger glided up the left wing.

He seemed to resigned to his fate… but for some unknown reason Andre Marriner kept his cards in his pocket.

A relieved Alex Ferguson realised the jig was up as far as Neville keeping a handle on Etherington was concerned and took the defender before the second half could kick off. The visitors went on to win 1-0 with a wonderful back header from Javier Hernandez and Neville soon hung up his boots after another roasting at West Brom.

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Neville has now looked back on that time, telling Sky Sports’ The Football Show : “I’d planned to finish at the end of the previous season and had agreed to go to Sky. But I had a really good last 10 or 12 games and conned myself, the manager and chief executive David Gill into thinking there was maybe one more season in me.

“I’d made my mind up I was leaving, I was finishing – and if I’d finished then it would have been perfect. But I took another season and that last season – I obviously finished it in January and retired – was an absolute disaster.”

He added: “My last three-and-a-half years were disrupted heavily by injury and I was nowhere near the level of the other players. I was amongst an incredible team – Rooney, Tevez, Vidic, Ferdinand, Van der Sar, Evra, Cristiano Ronaldo – and I felt every day in training I was inferior.

“In the last six-to-eight months I was at the club I felt embarrassed. I didn’t want to be picked. I knew I was a risk if I went out on the pitch. In training every single day I was looking at Rafael and the other lads – the energy, the speed of the game had shifted beyond me and it was obvious for me to see.

“Not even my experience was covering the sort of yards and if you can’t get there, you can’t get there.

“You start taking up bad positions and when you think about the game at West Brom it was a horror show performance from me for 72 minutes.

“How I didn’t get sent off or cost us more goals? It was the same at Stoke in the game I played before that in November [sic].

“And it was the same at Everton where we were 3-1 up, finished 3-3 and the two goals came down my side.

“So for me I was finished and at 31, 32 I was never going to play for another club.”





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