Last night saw 42,000 fans say farewell to Gary Neville as Old Trafford held a match of a Manchester United XI against Juventus.
Before the match Neville was presented with a special commemorative art piece by manager Sir Alex Ferguson and chief executive David Gill.
The starting line-up for the United XI saw Kuszczak in goal with Wes Brown and John O’Shea in central defence with Phil Neville at Left Back and with Gary Neville in his usual Right Back position. The midfield saw old friends re-unite with Giggs & Scholes playing alongside Nicky Butt and David Beckham. Upfront saw Michael Owen partner Wayne Rooney. Interestingly enough Owen was wearing his No.7 as well as David Beckham taking back some ownership of his old iconic number. Alessandro Del Piero captained a full strength Juventus side.
The likes of Giggs and Rooney came off around the 30 minutes mark as they have a big game against Barcelona coming up and were replaced with Bebe and Obertan.
A chant of Gary Neville is a red rang out well before the game and throughout the match, but there were also loud cheers every time his good friend, David Beckham, touched the ball.
United opened the scoring with Wayne Rooney tapping in Ryan Giggs low cross, but the first half ended 1-1 with Pepe heading home Krasic’s perfect cross.
The second half saw more changes, with Rafael coming on and Neville moving into central defence as the game seemed to start to take its toll on him, he was unable to maraud forward as he has been doing earlier in the game.
67 mins Bebe was fouled and Beckham set up to take it, but had repeatedly asked if Neville wanted to take it. Beckham was unable to hit the target, but it was smiles all-round.
Phil Neville looked to have fouled Martinez in the penalty box, but the referee was never going to be giving a penalty. After the game Phil joked how he was happy the ref didn’t give a pen as he is used to giving away penalties in the last minutes of games.
David Beckham did give away a free kick though, which looked like it was going to be crossed in but the young Italian, Giandonato. He went for goal and scored a free kick that David Beckham would have been proud off, curling it in off the post. Beckham had played well, even though while Neville was supposed to be playing right back, in was Beckham who was playing in a more defensive position as Neville was in a more forward role, until he slipped into central defence that is. And Beckham show pieced his passing skills are still good, by playing the ball all over the park as accurate as ever.
On the 83rd minute Gary Neville came off to a huge round of applause from Old Trafford bringing a close to his time at Manchester United, before he starts his new career working for Sky Sports.
The game ended 2-1 to Juventus but the score was not important as everyone was there to see say goodbye to a true Manchester United legend, Gary Neville.
After the match Gary Neville acknowledged the crowd and thanked them for all their support through the years saying “I’d like to thank everybody that came out tonight, the fans who play a huge part in my career, I feel like one of you, who has fulfilled my dream by playing for this club for so long” he continued “I’d like to thank the players that I played with for 20 years its been an absolute privilege to play with them, my family, to the manager and the coaches who without I wouldn’t have achieved what I achieved with this football club”.
He personally addressed old friends “I’d like to thank David (Beckham)”, which got a cheer from the 42,000 in the crowd, “Phil (Neville) Nicky (Butt), for playing tonight, I’d like to thank Juventus, a great football club I respect them a lot.” Before adding “And finally, most important thing, we’ve got go win that trophy on Saturday” which got a huge roar from the crowd.
As Gary Neville went to make his lap of honour he ran over to Beckham and his brother Phil, but they were telling him to go on his lap of honour alone. A sign in the crown could be seen reading “leader, captain, legend.”
David Beckham after the match said” “it’s been an amazing night tonight, a great night for him and his family and I’m honoured to be apart of it”
Adding “I think I did more running tonight for him than I ever did in ten years, it was great being out there again in-front of the fans with Gary as well.”
It was a great send off for the United legend, one who will be like many other United greats and always be associated with the club, and will always be around the club in one way or the other.
Some great pictures over at the Telegraph.com