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By ESPN Staff

Neville backs successor Rafael

Gary Neville is convinced his coveted right-back role at Manchester United is in safe hands after he announced his retirement from the game last week.

Neville, 35, has struggled for a number of seasons and his last two performances - which could have brought dismissal against both Stoke and West Brom - left him certain it was time to walk away. But Neville's decision was made easier by the knowledge young full-back Rafael now has the capability to hold down the job.

''You can now say we've got a first-choice back-four for the first time in a few years,'' Neville told his club's official website. ''Rafael's always had ability. He gets to the ball quickly, he is aggressive, he defends his position well, he is tough, courageous, good on the ball, he gets forward well and provides energy in attack.

''But he has really developed in the last six months with games and experience. He has also got a great attitude. He is more than capable of going on to become United's right-back for many years.''

It takes Neville back to when he was a younger member of the United squad, making his own way forward in a dressing room containing the likes of Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona.

''I remember when I was young defender you need that time to mature and get experience,'' he said. ''We haven't had a consistent right-back in the last couple of years. I have been around. Wes Brown and John O'Shea have played some games as well as Rafael, but in the last four or five months we've had a consistent performer in that position.''

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