On the attitude a United education instils (March 2010): The idea was that you’ve never made it. With a young player sometimes you hear people saying: ‘He’s made it.’ Our idea was that you’ve never made it. You can perform well here and still be out if you don’t fit the plan. There are no passengers, it’s a conveyor belt, and if you’re not contributing to the success of the club in some way you won’t be here much longer.
On scousers: I can’t stand Liverpool, I can’t stand Liverpool people, I can’t stand anything to do with them.
On being a United player: I always tell the young players here if you look down at your shirt and see a Manchester United badge, you’re not having a bad day. You’re doing all right. The day I don’t have the United badge on my chest will be a sad one for me. I don’t think I can ever have the same feeling playing for another football club.
On retirement (March 2010) :It is an agonising process because to stop playing at this club is a big thing for me. I love the club, it’s all I’ve ever known. But in some ways it becomes easier for me because I love the club that much I don’t want to become a passenger. Everybody would say – play football for as long as you possibly can. Everybody would say that, because you can’t go back to it. But there’s more to it than that for me. For me to go and play at another football club just won’t happen. I won’t dilute my memories of football. I know that would happen for me. My colours are so firmly nailed to the mast at this club, for me to go and run out in a different shirt, I just wouldn’t enjoy that.
On that celebration against Liverpool (February 2006): You are caught up in the moment and for a few seconds you can go bananas. What are you meant to do? Smile sweetly and jog back to the halfway line? I laughed when I heard someone say that it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are probably the same people who have accused us of lacking passion in recent games. No disrespect to Liverpool was intended. Last week, I had to put up with a Liverpool lad taunting our fans during the Manchester derby but at no point did I even consider that Robbie Fowler should be punished. The stick is part of the game. One week you take it on the chin, the next you give it out. That is how local rivals have always been – and always should be. I have to put up with Liverpool fans singing plenty of songs about me, none of them tasteful, and I struggle to believe that I have caused them any grave offence with an exuberant celebration. Increasingly people seem to want their footballers to be whiter than white and there are calls for sanctions over every little incident. Do they want a game of robots?
On the addiction: When you first walked into that ground at the age of five or 10…you fell in love with that team running out in that red shirt, in that great ground, on that green pitch. That was what drew you to the club and made you think, wow, that’s got me. And it’s an addiction you have for life. It was walking into the stadium, that’s what gripped me, the size of it — I was in awe of the whole place. I just love everything; the badge, the history.
On what matters most: (February 2011) Winning trophies, that is the most important bit. A lot of people might not play 600 games at United, but a lot of people have amassed caps and amassed a lot of games, and there might be people who’ve played 850 games, they might be on 720 in different clubs over their careers. The difference, I feel, in my career is that I’ve played in teams that have mattered and won things, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do which is to contribute in some way, however big or small, to teams that have won major trophies. That is the only thing that is really important. To play 500 or 600 games, obviously that would bring you potentially more money and a longer football career, but what really matters is winning trophies and playing for a club that I love and wanted to win trophies for.”
On what he’ll miss after retirement (March 2010): The moment of winning the trophy. That evening, when you’ve actually done it. It’s the thrill of the final whistle blowing and knowing you’ve won a trophy that I’ll miss the most.
On being a United fan (February 2011): I have been a Manchester United fan all my life and fulfilled every dream I’ve ever had. I am looking forward to new experiences and the club will always be a part of my life going forward however the most important thing now is for the club to continue with the success that is synonymous with Manchester United and I will be supporting them all the way, as a fan.
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