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Feb 2, 2011

Gary Neville announces retirement

Manchester United defender Gary Neville has become the first of the 'Fergie Fledglings' to end his career after announcing his immediate retirement from professional football at the age of 35.

• Adams: Neville will be missed

Neville, who has made only three Premier League starts this season due to fitness problems and a lack of form, made 602 appearances for United and represented England on 85 occasions.

Hailed as "the best English right back of his generation" by Sir Alex Ferguson, Neville was a member of the famous side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992, and along with fellow academy graduates Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes dedicated his entire career to his manager at Old Trafford.

But while Scholes and Giggs continue to shine in the Premier League, Neville has decided that the time is right to hang up his boots, bringing to a close a trophy-filled career that saw him secure eight league titles, the Champions League, three FA Cups and two League Cups.

"I have been a Manchester United fan all my life and fulfilled every dream I've ever had," Neville told the club's official website. "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.

"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.

"There are so many people I want to thank and, of course, top of that list is Sir Alex. 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."

"I am looking forward to new experiences and the club will always be a part of my life going forward. However, the most important thing now is for the club to continue with the success that is synonymous with Manchester United and I will be supporting them all the way, as a fan."

Striking up a successful partnership with his good friend David Beckham on the right side of the United team, Neville came to epitomise United's spirit under the leadership of Ferguson and his dedication and professionalism saw him awarded the captain's armband in 2005.

Ferguson 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.

"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. All the young players who have sought his advice on many matters, particularly on contract issues owe him a great debt.

"As a young boy he had the will and determination to succeed as a footballer and that character remained with him throughout his career. That's the legacy he leaves every young player at Manchester United."

Neville also attracted tributes from his colleagues, with Rio Ferdinand writing on his Twitter page: "Gary Neville has retired from football ... the best right back in premier league history #fact. Gonna be a loss to our dressing room #banter."

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