Born in Ipswich. Raised in Johannesburg. Made in Manchester. That’s Gary Bailey for you. It’s been 23 years since he last played for United, but Bailey is every bit a Red now as he was when he was a Stretford End hero in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The double FA Cup winner has swapped shot-stopping for the studio as a renowned pundit on South African TV. We caught up with Gary to talk about his time at OT, the United players he thinks will do well in South Africa and why he holds Sir Alex in such high regard…
Gary, you work in South African TV these days. What are you doing during the World Cup?
I’m working for a TV company called SuperSport, which is like Sky TV out here. I’m also a cultural ambassador for the tournament, along with Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Arsene Wenger and a few others. I’m very lucky and it’s great fun. The country was building up to this for so long so it’s great that it’s finally here!
What makes the South African World Cup special?
It’s in a totally new continent for a start, and nobody has seen anything quite South Africa for a World Cup before. It’s a completely different vibe. It’s not like Europe or America. Three things make it very different: the vuvuzela – the noisy trumpets; the makarapa, which is a colourful, decorated miner’s helmet; and Diski dancing, which is what the fans over here do. Plus it’s a totally different part of the world with nature reserves and so on.
Beyond Wayne Rooney, which United players will make the biggest impression?
Patrice Evra could have a big summer. France have looked like they’re in a bit of disarray, but they’ve got some big players and that could change very easily. They can rally together through adversity. United have done that under Sir Alex in the past, and it would be a mistake to write off France, and Evra – now as captain - could do very well. The English lads could go far. Wayne and Michael Carrick can have brilliant summers. Behind Brazil and Spain, England are my next favourites to win it. I think it’s the right climate, the right coach, the right time. Wayne and the rest could gain immortality.
Do you get back to Manchester much?
Yes, I came back for the Chelsea match and United always look after me so well. I went to the training ground and met Sir Alex, I had a bite to eat with him. The training ground was a bit different from the days of The Cliff, when we had just one pitch that was a mud