Phil Neville has confirmed he has retired from playing, signalling the end of a distinguished 19-year career and opening the door to a full-time coaching or management role once he has finished working with the England Under-21 squad at the European Championship in Israel.
Neville, who is finishing his Uefa A coaching licence, made 505 top-flight appearances for Manchester United and Everton, winning six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and one Champions League as well as representing England on 59 occasions. The 36-year-old has been linked with a coaching position at United, where he would be reunited with David Moyes, the former Everton manager who has taken over at Old Trafford. But Neville said that he would not be making a decision until the end of the Under-21 finals.
Asked whether he has finished playing after leaving Everton at the end of last season, Neville replied: "Did you not see me training? I was speaking to Robbie Fowler about this the other week. He hasn't officially retired. Three weeks ago, everyone in the world seemed to be retiring. I thought: 'I'm not jumping on this bandwagon.' I just wanted it to be a smooth, quiet turnover.
"When I made a statement that I was leaving Everton, everywhere I went I seemed to be getting: 'Oh you've been brilliant.' I didn't like it. I didn't want to be seen as an attention seeker. In my heart, I knew that I wouldn't be playing again – at any level. I just wanted to drift away. The biggest thing I will miss is 4 July when Everton are due back for pre-season training. I loved that day. I lived for it, getting back with the lads."
Neville, who has also been linked with the manager's position at Brighton, said that he has several offers on the table. "If you had asked me two months ago, I thought I'd do a year with BBC or in the media. It might work for some people but not me.
"I will be going to the World Cup next year with the BBC – I won't be going as a player! I do enjoy the media side but I want to work, I want to coach, I want to get more hours on the grass. I have got two paths – one to go into the media, the other to go into coaching and management. I have got offers from both. I will sit down at the end of the tournament [and make a decision]."
Offering an insight into life at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, Neville revealed that the former Manchester United manager had refused to allow any of his players to fast-track their coaching careers. "He gave us a great lesson when doing my B licence, with Roy Keane, Gary [Neville], Nicky Butt and [Ryan] Giggs," Neville said. "When you are a footballer at Manchester United, you are probably looking for a bit of a short-cut or 'can we get someone in to do the sessions for us, sign it off?' And he gave us a rollocking and said: 'No fast track to coaching or management.'
"We said: 'But we've got to go to Lilleshall for two weeks in the summer,'" Neville recalled. "He said: 'Get it done.' 'Can you phone the FA and ask if we can leave a couple of days early?' 'No, I want you to stay longer.' It was the biggest jolt that we had. We were thinking: 'We are Manchester United. We know everything.' He said: 'Actually, you don't. There's no short cut to being a manager or coach.' He sowed the seed early on in our coaching career."
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