Paul McGrath has had one of the most interesting careers in contemporary football.
He was a fantastic player who excelled at both club and international levels for nearly a decade and a half. Throughout his football career, though, he struggled with both injury and addiction. The way he overcame both of these challenges is what makes him such a beloved character.
There were severe doubts about his future in the game near the end of the 1980s. Injuries had hampered his effectiveness at Manchester United, and Alex Ferguson had become tired of his antics off the field.
In fact, the Scot offered him a substantial sum of money to retire from the game entirely.
Paul McGrath on his Alex Ferguson retirement offer
Alex Ferguson was fed up with Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside maintaining the club’s drinking culture, and he let both players go in 1989.
At this point, he appears to have offered the Irishman a handsome sum to retire from the game entirely in an attempt to get him out of Old Trafford.
McGrath told The Telegraph that an offer of £100,000 was made on the condition that he retire and return to Ireland.
However, he declined the offer and instead made the move to Aston Villa at first opportunity.
“Sir Alex got me into the room and just said ‘we’d like you to stop playing football’,” said McGrath. “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.
“I was thinking about it because £100,000 back then was quite a lot of money. But I spoke to [team-mates] 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’.”
Just weeks afterwards, Graham Taylor, then in charge of Aston Villa, made the call and brought McGrath down to the Midlands.
And the rest remains history. Fortunately, McGrath would go on to have possibly his best stint of his career from this point forward.
The centre-back excelled at Villa Park, and spent seven years there and his efforts in the inaugural Premier League season earned him the PFA Player of the Year award in 1993.
Regarded as one of the best defenders of his era, he would go on to play for Ireland at the Italia 90 and America’s 1994 World Cups as well.