Gary Neville has admitted he thought his career was coming to an end at the end of April this year.
Although his fellow veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes had already agreed new one-year contracts, Neville was still waiting to hear whether Sir Alex Ferguson still wanted him.
At 35, the former England full-back had long since stopped worrying about such matters.
Yet, as the realization of what was coming suddenly dawned, he confirmed his feeling that life was about to change.
‘I turned round during training one morning and said: “I have three games to go at Manchester United,”‘ said Neville.
‘I had not spoken to the club and I genuinely felt it could be the last three weeks.
‘The club didn’t owe me anything and I was more than happy. I was enjoying myself. “In some ways, my best football came in a period I thought I was just going to enjoy.’
So well was Neville playing at the time there was even talk of a call into Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad.
In the end, the Italian never got in touch and given subsequent events involving David Beckham, it is almost certain Neville will never represent his country again.
However, the Bury-born defender received adequate compensation when Ferguson dropped a one-year contract extension into his lap.
It gives Neville another shot at the major prizes in a career that only still exists because of his single-mindedness and dedication.
The past three seasons have been a struggle due to a succession of injuries.
He is still to make an appearance this season due to a groin injury that prevented him embarking on United’s pre-season tour of the United States.
‘Because of my injuries, I have thought about the fact I might have to find something else,’ he admitted.
‘Two years ago I thought it would be my last season. Obviously last year I felt the same.
‘I recognise this one could be as well. I am on a one-year contract. If I don’t perform or I feel the club don’t want me anymore I will be gone.
‘That is life. In the 19 years I have been here, it has happened to better players.