Gary Pallister playing for Manchester United

Pallister: I sat in a car park for seven hours

Friday 27 March 2020 14:01

Gary Pallister has revealed the unusual story behind his transfer to Manchester United in 1989.

The defender joined the Reds from Middlesbrough and went on to form an iconic partnership at the heart of defence with Steve Bruce, one that guided United towards our first three Premier League titles, in 1993, 1994 and 1996.

However, our former defender recently admitted he only made the move to Old Trafford after his transfer to one of our arch-rivals was cancelled.

“My relationship with [then Middlesbrough manager] Bruce Rioch broke down and I was no longer being selected for England because we were struggling in the [First Division],” Pallister said during an episode of the UTD Podcast, when asked about his move to the Reds.
UTD Podcast: Why Pally was told off at Anfield Video

UTD Podcast: Why Pally was told off at Anfield

UTD Podcast | Gary Pallister revealed why Alex Ferguson gave him a dressing down after his brace at Anfield…

“I went away that summer and thought ‘right, what do I need?’ I wasn’t enjoying my football and knew I needed a career move so I employed an agent for the first time. 

“Obviously you weren’t allowed to talk to clubs and I was still under contract. About a week or so later he came and said ‘Kenny Dalglish wants to take you to Liverpool’. Liverpool had just won the title and I thought it was brilliant.

“They tried to sort out a deal and, needless to say, Middlesbrough weren’t very happy, especially Bruce. Eventually it went to a board meeting and Liverpool made an offer and they rejected it. My agent called me up and said ‘Liverpool aren’t prepared to go any higher, I’ll see what else is out there’.

“Then he phoned me back and said ‘how do you fancy Man United?’. I said yes and he told me they were going to try and get a deal sorted.”
However, the transfer was far from a smooth one, and Alex Ferguson, like Dalglish before him, was about to discover what tough negotiators Middlesbrough were.

“I met my agent at the hotel, which was a 15-minute drive away from where I lived. I said I’d follow him in my car. My agent was driving in front of me in his big Rolls Royce and we came into the car park.

“My agent went inside the hotel to see that everyone was there and Bruce Rioch said if that if that ****** walks in here in the deal’s off.

“So I had to sit in the car park for something like seven hours while they haggled this deal through. There were no mobile phones back then, so there wasn’t a lot to do. I just sat there twirling my fingers, hoping for the best.

“Intermittently the gaffer [Alex Ferguson] would come out and say ‘we’ve gone up to £1.8 million and they’re still saying no… We’ve got up to £1.9m, up to £2m and they’re still saying no’.”
Pallister appeared on the UTD Podcast in February
However, Gary’s seven-hour wait in the car park proved to be worth it, and United’s persistent negotiations ultimately earned him the nickname ‘Cash’ from former assistant manager Archie Knox.

“Eventually at about 3:00 in the morning they came out and said ‘the deal’s been done; £2.3 million’. He said ‘you’ve got to go up to the restaurant and sort out your personal details’.

“I went up there and sat with the gaffer and [then club solicitor] Maurice Watkins and the gaffer went ‘that’s what Bryan Robson is getting; that’s what you’re getting’. I just said ok, and it’s only lately that I’ve found out Robbo was on a lot more, so the gaffer did me out off a few quid!

“He had to get a little bit of money back because they were never going to be prepared to pay £2.3m, but that’s what it took. That’s where the name ‘Cash’ came from, that Archie Knox so aptly named me.”


Nick Duxbury (The Independent): "Middlesbrough, relegated after one season in the First Division, wanted to keep the 24-year-old capped twice by England, but Ferguson, backed by the money brought to United by new chairman Michael Knighton, made them an offer they could not refuse. 'In the end I decided to get him no matter what the cost,' Ferguson said.”

Alex Ferguson:
“We didn't intend to pay more than £1.6m for Gary Pallister. The Middlesbrough chairman did a brilliant job in pushing us to £2.3m over seven hours of negotiation. I didn't want to disappoint 50,000 fans again and although the lad cost more than we wished to pay I would point out that [Glenn] Hysen [fellow transfer target] is touching 30, Pallister is 22 and on a six-year contract. He will be an outstanding player, as will Paul Ince. They are both very young and will take time to settle in but I know we are on the right lines'.”

You can listen to the full Pallister episode of UTD Podcast now, on Deezer and all of your favourite podcast platforms.