UTD Podcast: Pallister's tough start as a Red
This week’s episode of UTD Podcast features yet another club legend, in the shape of our former defender Gary Pallister.
In a chat with former team-mate David May, as well as hosts Sam Homewood and Helen Evans, Pally regales us with tales of United training, scoring twice in front of the Kop and which of our rivals he actually supported as a child.
The centre-back, who spent nine trophy-laden seasons at Old Trafford, also recalls how his iconic partnership with Steve Bruce didn’t exactly click from the off.
“With Tony Mowbray [his fellow central defender at Middlesbrough] we used to try and sit a bit deeper to negate the threat of pace in behind,” remembers Pallister.
“I came here and Brucie would be going up [and trying to play offside] like Tony Adams with his hand in the air and I’d be dropping off 10 yards and it looked ridiculous!
“We ended up having to get on to the pitch and I had to adapt to the way United played, which was pushing up and keeping a high line. It took a wee bit of time.”
UTD Podcast: Why Pally was told off at AnfieldVideo
Despite having to get familiar with each other's playing styles, Pallister already knew Bruce prior to his move from Middlesbrough in 1989, and he and another United mainstay helped our new arrival settle into the side.
“I’d met Brucie a few years earlier and he was waxing lyrical about how great United was. I got on really well with him, so when I came into the dressing room that was easy to have that conversation with him.
“I knew Robbo [Bryan Robson] from playing at England level too, so those were two guys I kind of migrated to because I felt comfortable with them. We got on great on and off the pitch.”
Although Pallister went on to become one of United’s best-ever defenders, he experienced a difficult start to life after his club-record transfer from the north-east as the club struggled in the lower reaches of the First Division.
In the podcast, he recalls Alex Ferguson helping him through that tough period, especially after the 5-1 derby defeat to Manchester City.
“Obviously I was going to be made a bit of a target because that fee was ridiculous,” recalls Pallister.
“[Alex] was very supportive. I didn’t know about the hairdryer treatment then, but it wasn’t just me. It was a whole new team that were struggling.
“He said: ‘forget about all the outside influence, this is about the inner sanctum. This is about who we are. All you’ve got to answer to is your team-mates, me, the staff and forget about the rest of the nonsense that’s written.’”
Fortunately, Gary recovered from that to become a stalwart of the United defence, winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in that first campaign as the Reds lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.
Pally says claiming that accolade, voted for by fans, gave him a major boost, particularly after a run-in he had with a supporter after his debut, a 2-0 home defeat to Norwich City.
“Not a lot of people remember that because of the inauspicious start!” he added.
“It’s funny because I had people saying it took me a couple of seasons to settle in and I said oh really?
“That was great, that was a huge fillip for me to get an award like that off the fans. After the Norwich game, I was with my pal Bernie Slaven from Middlesbrough.
“I was walking back to the car park and some fan shouted ‘Oi, Slaven! I hope you kept the receipt for Pallister!’
“It had been a tough start for all the lads coming in that year, but that FA Cup was the prelude to winning the Premier League, the Cup Winners’ Cup and everything that came along with that.”