‘I hope he likes me.’ But then I heard through the grapevine that he’d tried to sign me as well when he was Aberdeen manager. So it worked out quite well. And when Sir Alex gave me my first-team debut a month after he arrived, I was absolutely thrilled. I actually got into the first team quicker than I thought because I thought it would take about seven or eight months before I got used to the pace of the game and the full-time football. To get a chance in the first team after eight or nine weeks was a great thing for me.
What do you recall of your debut now?
It was just before Christmas, 1986. I’d signed in October so it was fantastic for me to get in the team in December. I was obviously nervous leading up to the match – the manager told me a few days beforehand that I’d be playing, he probably should have waited until nearer the weekend! I think Remi Moses was injured. We were over in Bahrain and I managed to be in that squad. When we came back, Sir Alex told me, ‘Look, you’ll be playing on Saturday.’ I remember Kevin Moran was in the team that day and made me feel at ease. He said, ‘The good thing is you’re playing with fantastic players here so just go out and enjoy it.’ There were great players in that team that day, the likes of Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Gordon Strachan. All I wanted to do was get an early touch, make sure it was a good one and get into the game as quickly as I could.
You moved on to Newcastle less than two years after making your debut. Why was that?
I didn’t want to leave, but I was in the Irish squad at the time and we were heading towards the European Championships. To stay in that squad I needed regular first-team football. It was great being a United player, don’t get me wrong, but I was in and out of the team. I wasn’t an established first-team player, because there were so many good players there and there always will be at Manchester United. I played my last game against Aston Villa at Old Trafford and did quite well. Then Newcastle called me a few days later. I was only on a week to week contract at United at the time. Sir Alex offered me a two-year deal to stay and I didn’t want to leave - but Newcastle offered me better terms and the security of a three-year contract. I wasn’t after mega money, I didn’t have an agent, but security was important to me as our first child had just been born.
One of your spells out of the Manchester United team followed an infamous red card, in the first minute of a match against Southampton. What happened?
A lot of people ask me about