Happy Birthday Gary Neville.
Love him or loathe him, G-Nev is one of England’s finest ever players. A leader on the pitch and a model professional off it, even his awful start to managerial life hasn’t seen his reputation diminish.
The Manchester United legend turns 41 today and while Valencia fans won’t be sending a birthday cake to the training ground, we think it’s a good time to look back on Neville’s top ten career highlights.
After retiring from football in 2011, Neville made the move into TV work and regularly got work as a co-commentator on Sky Sports’ Champions League coverage.
In fairness, his dull voice didn’t suit the commentary box but it did provide us with some absolute TV gold in April 2012.
While commentating on the second leg of Chelsea’s semi final clash with Barcelona, Fernando Torres broke away to score a dramatic late goal, confirming Roberto Di Matteo’s side were going to the final.
The goal was dramatic and brilliant enough on its own, but Neville’s ‘goalgasm’ is as famous as the strike itself.
Here it is.
The Class of ’92
In 1992, Neville successfully graduated from Manchester United’s academy system and made his senior debut against Torpedo Moscow (now playing in the Russian third division, in case you were wondering), after captaining United’s youth side to the FA Youth Cup in 1991.
Neville’s fellow graduates included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and brother Phil and would go on to become a huge part of Man U’s success throughout the next decade.
‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ as they were known, made over 3000 appearances for the Red Devils and captured countless trophies between them.
With football in its current state, there’s hardly any chance of a group of players coming through the ranks and enjoying as much success as the Class of ’92 did.
After nailing down the right-back slot in the Man United team, Neville was called up by England manager Terry Venables in 1995 for his international debut against Japan.
Neville went on to win 85 caps for his country throughout the next 12 years, becoming England’s most capped right back, a record previously held by Liverpool’s Phil Neal.
Gary also set records with brother Phil, becoming England’s most-capped brothers in 2007 and making the record number of appearances (31) in the same England team.
For all his records, Neville has said in his autobiography that he felt his international career was a ‘massive waste of time’ because of his lack of international honours.
Becoming A Top Pundit
In 2014, Sky Sports made Neville a regular on Monday Night Football alongside Jamie Carragher.
It was this move that really kicked off Gary’s media career, as he managed to set aside his bias towards Man United and provide excellent, impartial analysis of all Premier League teams.
Within months, Neville was widely recognised as one of the best pundits on TV.
He’d often rip teams apart with no-bullshit talk, something which endeared him to the watching public.
His banter with Carragher is also legendary, as he regularly put the Liverpool legend in his place with a series of witty quips and sly digs, which no doubt pleased all the watching Man Utd fans (the ones watching from their armchairs, obviously).
Only the lure of management ended Neville’s role with Sky Sports and Monday nights aren’t quite the same without him.
Obviously Roy Hodgson hadn’t read Neville’s autobiography because in 2012, the former Liverpool boss made him his assistant manager.
Even so, Neville worked with Hodgson at Euro 2012 and at the World Cup in 2014. In fairness, he’d have had to be a fucking miracle worker to get England anywhere near the knockout stages in Brazil.
After a career playing for Sir Alex Ferguson, the move made sense as Neville could continue his coaching education under an experienced manager to aid a future managerial career.
As we know now, not everything works out as you think it might as Valencia continue to slump in La Liga.
As you’d expect from a man who played for Man United when they weren’t as boring as sin, Neville won bloody everything while at Old Trafford.
Eight Premier League titles – the first coming in 1995-96 and the last in 2008-09, three FA Cups, two Champions League trophies and one Club World Cup isn’t a bad haul for one career.
The all conquering United swept aside pretty much everyone during the 90’s and early 00’s, with Fergie masterminding his side to a status as one of the world’s best sides.
During that time he played with some shite players too, most notably Eric Djemba-Djemba and Anderson. To be fair, if you win a title with any of those two as part of your squad, you shoud be awarded two.
Owning Salford City
Along with his fellow Class of ’92 team mates, Neville acquired a 10% stake in non-league Salford City in 2014.
Between them, the ex-players own half of the club, with Singapore businessman Peter Lim owning the other half.
The plan is to get Salford into the professional leagues and thanks to an impressive FA Cup run this year and promotion last season, it’s going well.
The Ammies are currently 4th in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, three promotions away from the Football League and have ex-Man Utd striker Danny Webber in their ranks.
The club regularly pulls in crowds over 1,000 which is no mean feat considering some Conference National (one step below League Two) clubs, struggle to reach four figure attendances regularly.
In January 2006, Neville was in action for Man U against arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.
It was a tight affair but Rio Ferdinand’s late winner ensured bragging rights stayed in Manchester and prompted the United players to celebrate wildly.
None more so than Neville, who ran towards the small section of Liverpool fans and went absolutely mental, grabbing the Man Utd badge on his shirt and generally pissing them all off.
Becoming Valencia Boss
Alright, this one might not turn out as a highlight but at the time, Neville being appointed Valencia boss looked like a perfect chance to get into management.
And it was, a big club with huge resources seemed ready to be rescued by one of England’s most successful players.
However, it hasn’t gone well so far for Neville, who has only managed to win one league game with his new side and is coming in for heavy criticism from fans.
With good friend Peter Lim as Valencia owner, Neville is unlikely to get sacked from his role but come the end of the season, the former England man could leave the Mestalla when his contract ends.
His managerial reputation has been heavily dented, but Neville won’t struggle for work and could easily turn his fortunes around, with plenty of English clubs undoubtedly willing to offer him a second chance in management should he leave Spain.
Undeniably Neville’s finest acheivement.
Man Utd had already wrapped up the league title in 1998-99, before facing two finals in four days.
They swept aside Newcastle United in the FA Cup final, before producing arguably the greatest ever comeback to down Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.
Late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won it for United, who had fallen behind to Mario Basler’s opener after six minutes.
In case you haven’t seen it before, or just want to see it again, here it is: