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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 November 2006, 13:32 GMT
Ferguson's human side revealed
By Simon Austin

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson said he wanted "a football club, not a drinking club"
Ex-Manchester United star Paul McGrath has nothing but praise for the man who kicked him out of Old Trafford.

McGrath and Sir Alex Ferguson had a fractious relationship during three years together at the club, but have since become friends.

On his arrival at United in 1986, Ferguson was determined to rid the club of its drinking culture.

McGrath was one of the biggest drinkers and, after numerous run-ins, Ferguson sold the defender to Aston Villa.

Alex did me a favour by making me realise I had to put football first

Paul McGrath

McGrath told BBC Sport: "We went through a period when he didn't like me and I didn't like him.

"I thought he would never show me any kindness once I left the club, but he turned out to be a really decent human being.

"Since I left football he's been nothing but generous to me. He showed a big heart when he didn't need to.

"For example, he invited me and my wife to his testimonial dinner in London a few years ago and sat us on the table next to him.

"And when I worked in the corporate sector at Old Trafford, he'd always be generous to me."

McGrath says Ferguson's authoritarian approach used to "get my back up" when they worked together at Old Trafford.

"I used to think 'do what you want or say what you want, I'm not really listening any more'," he said.

Graham Sharpe and Paul McGrath
McGrath played for Man Utd from 1982 to 1989

"I'd be sitting there listening and saying 'yes, yes', and eventually he'd realise I was nodding for nodding's sake.

"That's no way for someone to behave. I used to tell my own son Christopher, who was at Liverpool for five years, that he must always listen to the coach.

"I was giving all the right advice, but back in the day not living it myself, which seems strange."

Yet McGrath, who was the PFA Player of the Year in 1993, says he now realises Ferguson helped to get his career back on track.

"I wish I had listened to Alex earlier on and won trophies with Manchester United," he admitted.

"I had a career with Aston Villa and we came close to winning the holy grail, the Championship, a couple of times.

"Alex did me a favour in the end in making me wake up and realise I had to put football first.

"What Sir Alex has done for Manchester United is nothing short of miraculous," added McGrath.

"Never in a million years did I think he'd be at the club so long or achieve so much. I'm delighted for him."

Sir Bobby Charlton on Ferguson
04 Nov 06 |  Man Utd
How Robins saved Ferguson's job
04 Nov 06 |  Man Utd
Gary Pallister on Ferguson
04 Nov 06 |  Man Utd
Roxburgh on friend Ferguson
04 Nov 06 |  Man Utd
Ferguson's career in photos
04 Nov 06 |  Man Utd
McGrath back from the brink
27 Oct 06 |  Football
Aston Villa's cult heroes
22 Apr 05 |  Football Focus


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