Gary Neville may be about to start his 16th UEFA Champions League group stage campaign but as Manchester United FC prepare to face Rangers FC his desire to compete at the highest level remains as fierce as ever.
The 35-year-old right-back, a survivor of United's triumph in 1999, is set to make his 110th appearance in the competition proper on Tuesday, though he will not be the oldest man on the pitch, given the presence of Rangers' 40-year-old captain David Weir. Neville made his European debut at home to FC Torpedo Moskva in the UEFA Cup 18 years ago yet, as he explained, he still relishes these occasions.
"No matter how many matches you've played and whatever stage of your career you're at, playing Rangers at Old Trafford is always huge," said Neville, who helped United beat the Scottish side 3-0 at home in 2003. "In fact, every match at Old Trafford is always a big occasion, while games like the weekend's one away at Everton will always be special too."
United suffered a setback in that game, conceding two added-time goals to draw 3-3, but Neville's focus now is on Rangers. "European matches against British teams are slightly different in some ways, particularly away games with the England-Scotland thing, but at home we always try to play the same way," he added.
While Neville has recently lost the United captaincy to regular starter Nemanja Vidić, Weir retains the Rangers armband and last week became Scotland's oldest international. Weir, who faced United regularly in the Premier League before leaving Everton in January 2007, is delighted to be stepping out at Old Trafford. "After leaving Everton I didn't think I'd find myself coming back here and definitely not at the age of 40. Manchester United are a great side, so I'm sure it'll be a great game."
However, Weir knows he has no easy task keeping an eye on Wayne Rooney. The defender played alongside the future England striker when he made his senior debut for Everton against Tottenham Hotspur FC on 17 August 2002 and Weir said: "I remember Rooney breaking into team as a 16-year-old. Wayne took to it like a duck to water and scored great goals like that famous one against Arsenal. He's gone from strength to strength ever since and it's lovely to see how far he's come."
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