Sir Alex Ferguson once offered Manchester United legend Paul McGrath £100,000 to retire immediately, but he refused.
McGrath is one of English football’s unsung heroes. The Irishman is one of just six defenders to have won the PFA Player of the Year award in its 50-year history, and his peers see him as one of the finest performers of his period.
Therefore, why did Ferguson try to entice him into early retirement? Because of McGrath’s drinking, which he struggled to overcome.
Alcoholism has dogged the England-born Irish international for the majority of his adult life, nearly costing him his career when he was only 29.
McGrath stated to The Telegraph that in an effort to eradicate the drinking culture at United, Ferguson gave the biggest boozer in the squad a costly one-way ticket out of the club.
“Sir Alex led me into the room and simply stated, ‘we’d like you to stop playing football,'” McGrath explained. “It’s as simple as that. And he said they were willing to pay me £100,000 to stop playing football and return to Ireland.
“I was thinking about it since £100,000 was a lot of money back then. But I spoke to [teammates] Kevin Moran and Bryan Robson and just stated that I wanted to continue playing because I believed I could still accomplish something in football.
“So Gordon Taylor walked into Sir Alex and said, ‘Paul’s playing on, you can find him, you can do whatever you want, but he’s going to play football – here or somewhere else.'”
McGrath got a call from Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor a few weeks later and jumped ship to Villa Park, where he played probably the finest football of his career despite rising injury problems and an unyielding thirst for the bottle.
“I leaped at the opportunity,” McGrath continued. “I thought to myself, ‘Jesus, I can play there every week.'”
McGrath went on to inspire Villa to two unlikely Premier League second-place finishes, earning himself the PFA Player of the Year award in 1993 as a result, before going on to star for Ireland during the memorable World Cup 1994 campaign, putting in a man of the match performance despite playing through excruciating knee pain during their 1-0 win over eventual-finalists Italy.
That was typical of McGrath in so many ways.