Was is it a problem that Atkinson was sacked shortly after signing you?
To be honest, no, because I was coming from Ireland rather than another top division club in England so nobody had any expectations of me anyway. I was coming from part-time football to full-time football so I thought it would take me about a year to get used to that transition. That’s what I was looking at – I’d been playing well in Ireland and I thought if I trained with better players at United, I’d eventually get a chance. Then obviously a month later the manager gets sacked, a new manager comes in and I was thinking, ‘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.