During his United years, he won six league titles, three FA Cups, the European Cup and Pele even named him the best player in 2002 World Cup when representing England. In 1999, Butt got a starting place in our midfield for the European Cup final against Bayern Munich with Roy Keane and Paul Scholes suspended, probably the highlight of his entire career.
He started fewer and fewer games, with Juan Sebastian Veron joining what was already probably the best central midfield pairing in the world in Scholes and Keano, and Phil Neville getting the nod, which forced Butt out of the team and up to Newcastle.
His career was pretty much a shambles of that, initially with him being very unpopular in the North East following a dreadful performance against us. He loaned out to Birmingham but that ended badly too after he lost the plot when he found out former team mate and current manager, Steve Bruce, put his son in the team ahead of Butt.
He won over the Newcastle fans eventually and was even named captain but after spending a year in the Championship he retired at the end of last season. Watching the likes of Giggs and Scholes still playing at the top must tug on the old heartstrings, with Butt revealing ahead of last night’s game that he found it very difficult to leave the club.
“I spent half my life there at United,” said Butt. “I knew everyone inside the club from the canteen ladies and the chefs to the kit people. That made leaving very hard – the most emotional thing I’ve ever had to do. If you play for United week in week out you don’t want to leave but I got to the stage when I wasn’t even second choice in midfield. As a professional I knew it was time to go. It was something that had to happen. The manager was brilliant because he understood but bigger and better players than me have left United and will do in the future. When I was leaving I had a few choices but I only wanted to go to Newcastle. And although I had some tough times at Newcastle with injuries, my form and the fans, there are no regrets – none at all. United will always have a massive place in my heart but Newcastle has a strong place in there too.”
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