Gary Neville was one of three players from the same Manchester United youth team who went on to make 100 UEFA Champions League appearances, and one of two (alongside Ryan Giggs) who made them all with the Red Devils.
Manchester United: 109
Manchester United: 2
Best performance: winner (1999, 2008)
If you don’t remember him …
A hard-working and talented right-back, Neville joined United in 1991 and retired two decades later having racked up more than 600 appearances (all under Sir Alex Ferguson), winning eight league titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, 85 England caps and two editions of the UEFA Champions League, followed respectively by 1999 European/South American Cup and 2008 FIFA Club World Cup success.
Neville emerged as part of United’s 1992 FA Youth Cup-winning team that also included David Beckham, Giggs and Nicky Butt. With Paul Scholes and Gary’s brother Phil, they formed the core of the United team that enjoyed a long period of English dominance, Neville linking up with Beckham down the right for club and country.
After retiring in February 2011, he assisted England manager Roy Hodgson from 2012-15, had a spell in charge of Valencia, and is now a well-respected TV pundit, and co-owner of Salford City (along with Butt, Giggs, Scholes and Phil Neville).
How he made it to 100 appearances
Neville’s senior club debut came as a 17-year-old substitute against Torpedo Moskva in a UEFA Cup tie on 16 September 1992 (“My debut was a throw-in,” he later told United’s website. “That was it. I didn’t touch the ball with my feet.”). The following season he got his first taste of UEFA Champions League football in a qualifier against Galatasaray with Neville’s group bow coming on 23 November 1994 at IFK Göteborg.
By the time United became UEFA Champions League regulars from 1996/97 onward, Neville was a regular, playing a full part in the 1998/99 treble that culminated in the dramatic UEFA Champions League final defeat of Bayern München in Barcelona. As captain, Neville was part of the squad that regained the trophy in 2007/08, though it was an injury-hit season for the defender and he played just nine minutes of that European campaign, as a quarter-final substitute against Roma.
That was Neville’s 99th competition appearance, the century brought up the following September against Villarreal, 16 years and one day after his European debut. Neville’s last game in the competition was away to Bayern in the 2009/10 quarter-finals, though he subsequently coached Valencia once in the UEFA Champions League, at home to Lyon in December 2015.
His best moments
- It wasn’t just the Bayern players that collapsed to the Camp Nou turf after United’s stunning comeback in the 1999 final, so did Neville, though not through despair. “You can never describe that feeling, you could never put what happened into words,” he said. “It would never do it justice.”
- Neville was never much of a goalscorer, but his seventh and last strike for United (his second in Europe) was memorable: it came in a 2-1 win against Lyon on 23 November 2004, Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1,000th game in charge.
- He may only have made that one cameo in the run to the 2007/08 title, but the standing ovation Neville received as, after more than a year out, he was sent on against Roma and handed the captain’s armband for the closing minutes was proof of his status in the eyes of the Old Trafford faithful.
What others said about him
“Neville was the most professional player I saw.“
Cristiano Ronaldo, United team-mate
“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.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, his sole club manager
“Not only is Gary a great person, he is one of the best defenders ever to have played the game.”
David Beckham, United and England team-mate
In case you missed them …
Champions League 100 club: John Terry
Champions League 100 club: Ashley Cole
Champions League 100 club: Patrice Evra
Champions League 100 club: Andrea Pirlo
Champions League 100 club: David Beckham
Champions League 100 club: Frank Lampard
Champions League 100 club: Andriy Shevchenko
Champions League 100 club: Oliver Kahn
Champions League 100 club: Luís Figo