Seven departures from Manchester United saddened Gary Neville

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Gary Neville admits he was “devastated” when David Beckham left Manchester United.

Beckham joined Real Madrid for £ 25 million in 2003 after a difficult retirement from Sir Alex Ferguson who accidentally kicked him in a football boot after the FA Cup fifth round defeat at Arsenal.

The incident left Beckham in need of stitches and two months later Ferguson selected Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over Beckham for the pivotal match at Arsenal in the title run-in. Ferguson also dropped Beckham for the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Madrid, despite the tumult, United have won nine of their last 10 games to win the Premier League title.

Beckham signed a five-year contract with United in 2002 before his working relationship with Ferguson fell apart. After his last appearance at Old Trafford for United against Charlton, an emotional Beckham was filmed on the field saying to Neville, “They had discussions.”

Beckham confirmed in his autobiography – published later that year – that he knew he would leave United before Charlton’s game in early May. However, Beckham had issued a statement following Charlton’s flashpoint insisting that he “wanted to stay” and that there had been “no contact” between his advisers and Madrid.

“I remember David leaving,” Neville told Sky Sports. “He whispered to me on the field at the end of a match and the newspapers read it on the lips. I think his words were, “I think they want to sell me. “

“At the time, Real Madrid and Barcelona were for him. I said, “Just sign a contract.” I think he wanted to go and experience one of these teams; he always saw himself beyond Manchester. As much as he loved United and was absolutely obsessed with the club, he always felt like he had an incredible vision of what he wanted to do with his life.

“It did not cause friction in our friendship. Not at all. I never felt that at all. I thought when he was gone it was probably for the best because the relationship was getting a little tense. Generally speaking, you could see it was coming to an end. To date, I thought it was good for both parties. But at the time, I was devastated because I felt like the gang was breaking up. ”

Neville was also affected by the departure of his 1992 class teammate Nicky Butt, who moved to Newcastle United in 2004 after making only 22 starts in 2003-2004. Neville’s brother Phil left for Everton the following year, and Neville included them among the saddest starts he saw in his 19-year United career.



Beckham and Neville celebrate 2003 title victory after Beckham's last game at Everton
Beckham and Neville celebrate 2003 title victory after Beckham’s last game at Everton

“I remember exactly when Phil and Butty left,” added Neville. “Nicky wanted to go play for Newcastle and be number one, not number three or number four. He left that tour, going back to England to sign for Newcastle, and the only feeling I ever had like that in football was when Gazza, Phil and Nicky were kicked out of Glenn Hoddle’s England team [the World Cup] 1998.

“When you see your teammates leaving you, you know they are gone, it was extremely sad. Nicky’s departure was a big disappointment, but you know it will someday happen. Phil called me on a Sunday and told me he decided, “It’s a big call, you’re playing for United and winning trophies,” but he had arrived at the same place as Nicky.

“I don’t remember many of my football games, but I do remember that David, Nicky and Phil left as if it were yesterday. Even when Roy [Keane] on the left, Denis Irwin, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, they were beatings, because they were people with whom you lived so much. ”

Irwin was released in 2002 but played for two more years at Wolves, which he helped promote the Premier League in 2003. Cole joined Blackburn Rovers midway through the 2001-02 campaign and Yorke the joined Ewood Park six months later.

Keane acrimoniously left United in 2005 after immense tension with Ferguson.

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