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19th Nov 2023

Alex Ferguson once offered Paul McGrath £100k to quit football

Callum Boyle

The Scot must have felt there was no way back.

Alex Ferguson once offered former Manchester United defender Paul McGrath £100,000 to retire from football.

McGrath, who was only 29 at the time, revealed that his former boss made the offer to him in a bid to cut out the drinking culture at Old Trafford in the late 1980s, of which the defender was a part of.

Despite the lucrative fee the Republic of Ireland international turned down the offer and went on to join Aston Villa where he would become a huge success, earning the nickname ‘God’ during his time in the west Midlands.

Although Ferguson’s actions may have come across as extreme, McGrath told The Telegraph that he and others had been “acting up” regularly. He said:

“Sir Alex got me into the room and just said, ‘We’d like you to stop playing football’.

“Simple as that. And he said they were willing to give me £100,000 to quit playing football altogether and just go back to Ireland.”

Paul McGrathEverton striker Andy Gray (c) is challenged by Paul McGrath (l) as Bryan Robson looks on during the 1985 FA Cup Final. (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images)

Paul McGrath on Alex Ferguson offer

“I was thinking about it because £100,000 back then was quite a lot of money. But I spoke to [teammates] Kevin Moran and Bryan Robson, and I just said I wanted to play on because I thought I could still do something in football.

“So Gordon Taylor, who was at the PFA, went into Sir Alex and said, ‘Paul’s playing on, you can fine him, you can do what you want but he’s going to play football – here or somewhere else’.”

The Ireland international then left United that same summer (1989), joining Graham Taylor’s Aston Villa. He would make more than 250 appearances for the club and he admitted that he wasn’t surprised to leave the Red Devils.

“It wasn’t a shock really because we were acting up a bit back then,” he said.

“We had a bit of fun but we overdid it, so then he just wanted me out of the club. Then Bryan Robson was having a barbecue at his house and suddenly Graham Taylor was on the phone saying ‘Can you come up to Aston Villa?’ I jumped at the chance. I thought, ‘Jesus, I can play there every week’.”

In fairness to Alex Ferguson, he did look out for McGrath after he hung up his boots, offering him corporate and commercial work at United.

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