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Neville poised to join United's 500 club

Written by: Staff
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MANCHESTER, Mar 24 (Reuters) Manchester United defender Gary Neville will make his 500th appearance for the club when he leads them against Birmingham City at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The 31-year-old will become the eighth player in United's history to reach the landmark and assistant manager Carlos Queiroz has paid tribute to the England international.

''Personally I would like to congratulate him, and also on behalf of the club, because it's very rare today for a player to have such a long commitment to the same club,'' Queiroz said at a news conference today.

''It's fantastic. It's difficult to find the words to praise such an achievement. It is amazing and I wish him, and the club, a lot of luck for the next 500 games.'' Neville made his debut for United 13 years ago after joining the club as a youth team player in 1991.

''To have played at this club for so long and to get to 500 matches is something I never would have dreamed off,'' the England international defender told United's matchday programme.

''But I want to make it to 501 and 502 and so on. I feel great at the moment and I don't feel like my fitness is slipping in matches.

''I'm enjoying my football and enjoying being captain. As a team I think we're heading in the right direction and I'm convinced we can keep winning trophies.'' Neville joins current team mate Ryan Giggs on the 500 mark as well s Bobby Charlton, Joe Spence, Bill Foulkes, Tony Dunne, Alex Stepney and Denis Irwin.

Right back Neville will make his landmark appearance against a Birmingham side managed by a former United captain in Steve Bruce.

Bruce's side are in the relegation zone and go to Old Trafford on the back of a humiliating 7-0 home defeat by Liverpool in the FA Cup on Tuesday.

However, Queiroz insists that United will not read too much into that result as they look to extend their winning run to six and keep the pressure on Chelsea who lead by 12 points but have played one game more.

''Of course it is hard for Birmingham but we must ignore that result. Those kind of results belong to a fantasy world,'' said Queiroz.

''For them on Sunday, the team, the players, Steve, the club and the fans, they are fighting for survival, playing with survival instincts so it will not be easy for us.

Wes Brown will again be absent with a groin strain but Argentina international Gabriel Heinze continues to make progress following knee surgery and may yet play for United before the end of the season.

REUTERS PDS KN2031

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