With the troubles going on at Manchester United, 888Sport caught up with legendary centre-back Gary Pallister.
Pallister won many Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson and shares his view on the current situation with Harry Maguire and Jordan Sancho. Plus Pallister shares some insight into how his former boss would have deal with today’s situations at the Club.
Being a Centre Back yourself under Sir Alex, with Sir Alex also having Jaap Stam and Rio Ferdinand - In your opinion, if there was one that was better or did more for United than the other, who would it have been?
Wow - Listen, I think Jaap was an incredible player, I think Nemanja and Rio had a fantastic partnership. You know, I think they complemented each other like myself and Steve did while we were at United.
You know, and they were - I guess we all kind of had longevity. Whereas Jaap, I think was it two seasons, before the infamous fallout or whatever with a gaffer?
When he was a, he was an incredible defender, strong, abrasive, a real sort of rock at the centre of that defence.
Rio, you know, he was a classy centre back different than Nemanja, who was very much like Steve - it's very hard to pick one.
I mean, then you're not talking about somebody like Paul McGrath. I mean, what an iconic footballer Paul was, and certainly big boots for me to try and follow in when I arrived the United.
Then you've got Martin Buchan in the 70’s - they were a Cup winning team back those days, they never really won the league. So there'll be people talking about Martin, he was a classy footballer.
So I think it's a very difficult one. I mean - I think it helps if you can form that kind of partnership that Rio and Nemanja did, or myself and Steve - because we have different strengths and maybe weaknesses.
So I think it's a very difficult one. You know, I mean, I think it helps if you can, if you can form that kind of partnership. They reward the man you did, or myself and Steve, because we have different strengths and maybe weaknesses.
It's an impossible question for me to answer because they bring so many different things to the party.
So pretty much you're saying that you can't have one without the other and they complimented eachother so well, as you said with you and Brucey.
Yeah, I mean Jaap would have played with Henning Berg, Maysie, Ronny Johnsen, but he was the rock on which it was all kind of centered round in that period of time that he was there.
You talk to a lot of the players who played alongside Jaap and say what an absolute incredible defender and man mountain he was. He reminds you of The Hound from Game of Thrones or something like that, he reminds you of somebody like that.
People have different advantages in certain things over others, you know. And if Jaap would have been there longer then I'm sure he might have taken the accolade.
Regarding Harry Maguire, obviously, there are kind of parallels with yourself I guess in terms of joining United in what was a huge deal at the time? Did you feel the same sort of pressure that you think he's feeling with the fee when you moved to United in the first place?
I don't think anybody had any, any concerns about Harry Maguire for the first couple of years that he was at the club.
This is something you know, you look back after the Euros, and he just was named in the Team of the Tournament playing for England, and he came back and hardly had any rest. And we started the season, started off fine, got an injury.
I kind of felt as though he was rushed back a little bit and he didn't look his sharp self after that. And I think ever since then it seems to have been essentially a bit of a struggle for him - the crowd have gone on his back and, and it spread through to the England support and you know, he's found it tough.
He’s lost the captaincy, he’s lost his place and he's had a decision to make in the summer. He's chosen not to move to West Ham and fight for his place at United which is commendable.
I can certainly understand that because once you leave there, you're only probably going down on a downward spiral but Harry Maguire is not a bad not a bad Centre Back, we've seen enough him over the years to know that he's that he's a proper player - and you know, he's gonna fight for his place.
Gareth has the utmost faith in him with England, which didn’t help what happened the other night - him coming on in what was a really dominant display by England.
Well I'm not in that camp that thinks Harry Maguire is a bad player, I think he's got qualities. You know Manchester United can be a lonely place when you're not at your confident best and the crowd are concerned about you, a bit nervous, when he's playing in games, and that can certainly feed across the players.
As you say, I had it in my time, mine was different because it was as soon as they arrived at the club.
For the fee, I didn't start well, I didn't play well, for the first few games. And it took me a couple of months to kind of settle in before I felt as though I was producing the kind of displays which they were expecting of me.
So this is two years into Harry's career here at United and the problems have come. So it's a little bit different - but yeah, I feel for anybody that that walks out in front of 76,000, and maybe you maybe haven't got the trust or the support.
It's hard to bounce back from - I was very fortunate, I had a terrific manager, and super terrific leaders in the dressing room that they kind of helped me through.
So you talked about him being rushed back in 2021. I think that's like towards the end of Ole’s time as manager. And then you've got the managerial change with Rangnick, then you’ve got Ten Hag and you don’t have that kind of stability. So did having Sir Alex there when things were maybe not so easy, is that the sort of thing that you think Maguire might be able to have benefited from, rather than all that kind of upheaval.
This I don't know, because Sir Alex wasn't there in any period of his time. But it doesn't help when managers are changing around like that, and the club's not hitting the heights it's supposed to be that you would expect them to hit. I don't know the managers that well personally, so I don't know what kind of managers they are.
As I say, I was fortunate. I I played under one of the best, who as everybody knows was a pretty decent psychologist as well. So you know, I had conversations one-on-one in his office about how things were going.
But also I had incredible players like Brian Robson, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Brian McClaire who had been at the club for a few years. Obviously Robbo had been there for 10 years or something when I arrived, and he was great.
And I knew him playing for England for that few times that had done, and Viv Anderson was also there. And they were great - people that to bounce things off, how you felt, how you were coping, what you could change, what you could do and I don't know what Harry's got in terms of personalities like that in the club.
But he’s mature enough, he's sensible enough, he's been around enough, he's got enough international caps to be able to make wise decisions.
Again, he’s a different age from me arriving at United and having these problems. Harry's just turned 30, I mean he's long enough in the tooth to know about these things, and hopefully he can deal with them.
Because he is under the microscope - let's face it every time he walks on a football pitch there’s a debate about him. And you know what he's, he's been through a lot in his career, which shows he can handle it all.
You talk about the players you had around you, the advantage he had around you, was it a case of a bit of tough love? Was it an arm round kind of thing?
There was a lot of tough love, yeah!
There were times when you would go in there - I remember an occasion when I’d particularly had not a good game, and he brought me in and he said, “I’m thinking about leaving you out next game. I think the pressures building up on you a little bit too much, and you might benefit from sitting on the sidelines for a couple of games”
And I was like, “Well, no, I don't want to do that” and he said “Right, that's all I wanted to hear” And we went on from there. And, you know, he never he never dropped me. I think in all the time that I played the United, obviously he subbed me a few times when I wasn't particularly having a good game I can remember.
But I think that was maybe what he was looking for, you know, maybe he didn't want me to sort of duck out and say “alright I might benefit from the rest” but when I said “no, I want to want to go back in and play” then I think he was quite happy that I had that kind of attitude.
And we've got different situations facing Erik Ten Hag and Gareth Southgate, Gareth coming out this week and has been very strong in how he's defended Harry, been hitting out against the criticism, whereas you know, Ten Hag - this is not someone maybe who’s as important to his team as he is to Southgate - what do you make of it?
He's never let England down has he? Let's face it, Obviously, there's a couple of things that’s gone on probably not his way over the last eight months or so with England.
And now he's not playing regular first team football. It's a difficult situation. I mean, you don't want to leave Manchester United but if you're not playing then, it's going to be harder and harder for Gareth I guess to pick him.
If he's not playing regular football do you lose a little bit of your sharpness? You don’t have reserve football like we used to have back in the day. So where's he getting his level of match fitness and that sharpness? That's a question that needs to be looked at.
It may change in the transfer window in January. We've got injuries, Varane is out, I don't think Martinez played for Argentina during the international break. I'm guessing he must be doubtful for Saturday's game. I think Lindelof did play though, didn't he?
He definitely played the first game, not sure about the second. And he also came off for an injury in the last game as well. And it was Harry and Evans who finished the game against Arsenal.
So listen, you might get a chance again, to prove to the manager that he's up to speed and ready for the challenge. But if he's not playing then, yeah, it's a tough decision for him to make coming into January if he's not playing enough football.
Just quickly moving slightly away from that - Jadon Sancho is another one who has questions about what's happening. Southgate says for England, the door is not closed for anyone but in terms of Sancho and Ten Hag in the last few weeks, is there anything from your era where it was a similar deal, the player and the manager having that kind of huge war of words and was it resolved?
The war of words we would have would probably be had behind closed doors and wasn't there in public. Erik felt so he needed to go public with the reasons why he left Sancho out and I think that's probably a reaction from Jadon to come back fighting.
I mean I think it's something that maybe would have stayed behind closed doors, but it is what it is. I mean, the club was great with Jadon last year, they gave him three months away from the game with whatever problems he was having.
And so, the club has certainly gone out of their way to try and help him. And I hope it can be resolved - you don't want to see that kind of thing at your football club. You know especially with it being aired on social media don't think that's ever conducive to anything good happening.
I think I read something yesterday that they did have a clear the air chat. We want to see a Jadon Sancho as the player that he was at Dortmund because he looked like an exceptional talent.
I think we've seen it in bits and starts here at United but not enough. He’s still got a lot to prove in a United shirt I would think.
And when that sort of thing happens between a player and manager, is it this case of something as simple as clearing the air, deleting the post about it, and then coming straight back in, or does it take a bit more time?
That's got to be worked out between the management, that's their relationship and they'll decide whether to pick that up. Having said that, I imagine Antony's not going to play this weekend. I'm not sure what his only absence is. I think the conversation is a leave of absence.
So it is an opening there for Jadon to prove his worth, put a good week's training in, and say to the manager, “I'm ready to go” and then we'll see what happens. I mean, it's really it's worked out hasn't it that right the hand side birth has become available. And I mean, he's ready made for that job.
Obviously, we've seen this now from Ten Hag with Sancho, and we've seen results on the pitch being a little mixed this season. Is there a kind of sense of looking on from the outside that there are too many distractions that Ten Hag needs to get some more focus on what's going on in training and what's happening on the pitch?
I mean I’m sure he has got the focus on what’s going on, on the pitch. It has been a tough start, you know, I was at the Forest game, and you’re 2-0 down after five minutes and you're quite alarmed about the way we're conceding goals.
I think we deserved to win the Forest game in the end, we created enough chances, I mean, it could have easily been 6-4 to Manchester United in that game. I would say we deserved to win. The previous ones though we haven't really hit our straps.
You know, Mason played in the first couple of games and is still finding his feet in the United shirt, and we've changed things around again. And we’ve been hit by injuries; Varane, Martinez, Luke Shaw, Malacia - are out for a period of time.
So you don't foresee losing so many defenders you're on what we mean we've certainly not looked watertight at the back, disciplined enough. It’ll be interesting to see who the centre backs come Saturday - because it's a really tricky game for United's to play a Brighton that have started the season ever so well.
They won't be afraid to come to United and play their game. And you know where we're protecting a really good home record at the moment, so you don't want to lose that we made Old Trafford a bit of a fortress, certainly under Ten Hag.
Since losing to Brighton, last season…
It's been a great run, so yeah, I think there’d be a lot of interested people watching this game on Saturday to see the results, see the performance and maybe to see if Harry plays as well.
We'll start with Harry Maguire - And just your take on that situation as a whole and whether he's been unfairly treated, whether he's brought some of it on himself?
Listen, as I’ve said just there - for two years there was no issue with Harry Maguire at Old Trafford, he was made captain.
I don't think he's in the mould of a Brian Robson, or Roy Keane, or Steve Bruce, but I think that was probably as close to a leader in what we had at Old Trafford, and therefore he's made captain.
And I think for two years, he's been fine. But I think, you know, after the Euros, he got injured shortly into the season, I think they rushed him back a wee bit too quickly, and he didn't look himself - he made a few mistakes, the crowd again on his back, and I think it's been a tough time since then.
And Harry will be able to tell you better than I do whether he feels the pressure, if he's anxious about things that are going off the pitch? You had obviously the problem over in Greece and things like that.
And, yeah, it's been a difficult, difficult time for him. He's been, apart from the last maybe six months, I think he's been exceptional for England as well. So he's not a bad Centre half.
I can't buy into that because he's been in European Championship Teams of the tournament, he's got god-knows-how-many caps for England, Gareth trusts him implicitly.
I can't buy into the fact that everybody's saying he's done, he’s washed up, he’s finished. I just think at the moment, playing in Old Trafford has been difficult for him.
I mean, that is the only question, isn't it, really? Is he good enough for Manchester United - is that your opinion that he still is?
Yeah, I mean there was absolutely no problem for two years, you know. He wasn't afraid to bring the ball out from the back, he won his headers, he won his tackles.
He would join in with people who sat back and nobody was looking at Harry Maguire and saying, “yeah, he doesn't look like a Manchester United centre back”.
He’s lost his place, and the fans are unsure and it makes it tougher for Harry, and it can be an awfully lonely place Old Trafford if you don't have the fans behind you. And you know, I think that's probably playing a big part in why he's not playing in the first team at the moment.
You sort of alluded to it minute ago, with the captains that that you played alongside. When a decision is made to take that from Harry, and give it to Bruno - is he the right man for that, as a character as much as anything?
I don't think there's anybody really there of that ilk. It'd be interesting to see if eventually somebody like Martinez is going to get it because I think he sets the tone for Manchester United in the way he plays the game.
He's a fans favourite, he leaves everything out on the pitch, he's committed, he's aggressive, he's in your face. He's a kind of footballer that I played with back in my time, when you look at Robson, Bruce, Keane, people like that, Ince.
I mean they were in your face kind of captains and lead by example, and we're always prepared to give everybody a rollicking if they needed it, so Bruno's not one of them.
But you know, he's a voice I think in that dressing room, Erik Ten Hag thinks he's the right man for the job, and you know, he's a fans favourite as well.
So sometimes I think when he screams at referees and things like that, you kind of just scratch your head and wish he’d just concentrate on the football - but he's been an incredible player for United, over the four years that he's been here.
I don't imagine a hand waving and that would have gone down too well in your day with a few of the lads you played alongside.
Listen, how many Portuguese, how many Spanish players have we've seen like that over the years? I think it's almost indoctrinated into them when they play football probably from a young age. That's the way they seem to rule.
And I suppose the other saga at United at the moment is the Sancho one isn’t it? Have we reached the beginning of the end for him? Is he just on a long road goodbye now? You know, is it a matter of time?
I really don't know. It's unusual for it to be cleared out on social media like it has been or in the press.
Yes, I think most of that kind of stuff was probably kept in house in the sort of days that I played Manchester United, so it's been aired in public a little bit. I think they've had a clear the air meeting from what I understand in the press, whether that's true or not. I hope they have because it's not nice to see.
And listen, if we get a Jadon Sancho performing like you did at Dortmund, then you've got a hell of a player on your hands. He's shown in fits and starts his ability, he scored goals.
He's caught the eye in moments, but it's that consistency.
And the club were brilliant within last year, given him three months off, to try and deal with whatever was going on, to try and help him through - it's not very often you see something like that happen.
So he's got to give the club the due respect for trying to help them as well. So hopefully, it's sorted out behind the scenes.
There's probably an opening there on Saturday for the right hand side attacking birth. And if he puts a good week’s training there, maybe you get a chance.
Are you surprised it hasn’t worked out for him, because he looked so good?
He looked incredible, didn't he? I was really excited when we brought him in. I know that the Bundesliga is a little bit different from the Premier League.
He was not just doing it there, he was doing it in the Champions League as well, scoring goals, creating havoc. And we haven't unfortunately seen that level of consistency from here from here at United.
So why is that? I do not know. But yeah, we chased him for what, two and a half years to try and get him to get him over the line. And we couldn't get the deal done. And when it did come I was thinking “yeah, that's that's a real positive move”. A player that's proven at that level.
Coming to United, you needed a big fee, albeit, but I was really excited about him coming here, and, you know, I mean, unfortunately, I have to say at the moment, he hasn't reached the heights that that we were maybe hoping for.
He’s just a confidence player, he doesn’t have a run of plays like he did.
He doesn’t commit to players in terms of maybe taking the easy option, we've had changes in manager. It's been a difficult period for the club.
Ten Hag has come in, he's been very disciplined by the looks of it, behind the scenes. We've heard of different occasions when he's come down and hard on players. But, yeah, there's got to be a way of getting the best out of Jadon Sancho because you know, he's a talented footballer.
There were more deals done obviously over the summer. Were you surprised that they let David de Gea go? As part of that, is that a decision that might come back to bite them?
There was a lot of silence about what was going on there, wasn't it? David has been a great servant, and I still put him in the top 10 of goalkeepers in the world.
But the manager was looking for something a little bit different. And in Onana, he's got a guy who's super confident, very comfortable with the ball at his feet, and playing out - which is a style of football that a lot of managers seem to want now. It puts the fear of god into me when I see it happening.
How would you fancy playing in front of him?
I mean the difference is nowadays, the pitches are so much better. You can trust the ball gliding across the surface.
Back in the days when I played at Old Trafford it probably went down a pothole on the way out of the 18 yard box on its way to you before it reached you and you're having to deal with the control before you could pass it. But you can play a lot of stuff, one touch now.
And in Onana, he's got a guy who's super confident with it with a ball at his feet. I say he puts the fear of god in me sometimes, but that's the way he plays the game. That's the way Erik wants him to play the game. And there’s a big onus on goalkeepers to be able to do that these days.
Has he taken it slightly too far the other way though? He's very good with his feet but there's already been a couple of questions as to his ability to keep the ball out the net, which is what our goalkeepers job is first and foremost?
Well I think that's the thing, command your box and stop the ball from going in the back of the net. I think that obviously that the penalty that wasn't given on the opening game of the season got everybody talking about him.
But we've got to see him over a period of time before we make our decisions. You know, he was playing for Milan - I'm imagining you're not a bad goalkeeper, so I think he's made some good saves.
I think he's had a decent staff to his career at United, and yeah, I mean it's a watching brief now over a period of time.
Another one that United fans obviously hope will come good, Mason Mount took on that number 7 shirt. Brave call - I mean, is he someone that you expect to back that up?
I think we've seen plenty of Mason playing for Chelsea, we all know what kind of player he is.
I don't think the balance was right in the early part of the season when he was playing in that three in the Wolves game. You know they were driving through our midfield, and we didn't really, you know, engage that well in trying to stop it.
You played two games and then Erik left him out. And it's a tough place to go and play in front of 76,000 people every week and have the spotlight on you because you’ve come for a lot of money.
And there's a big expectation on him - I've been there myself and you know, felt that pressure, and at times it can be overwhelming.
So we're trying to bed him down in the team, maybe it’s not a bad thing to take him out, for him to take stock. But he's a talented player - I think he's got goals, he has creativity. And then I think you know, it's just finding that right balance in the midfield for him to play in.
With lots of money spent and Erik has made it clear that he's the one in charge, what's the minimum requirement for United this season? What do they have to achieve?
I think you have to look at it every year and get to the Champions League, but a club the size of Manchester United to not get there is probably looked upon as failure but it's becoming more and more competitive.
It's not like it was 20/30 years ago when you had the top four in Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea. Obviously Man City have come to the party and dominated the Premier League. Newcastle have come in there with all their money.
And that playground that we used to play when we were top boys has disappeared. So yeah, I think you're always disappointed if United doesn't make the top 4 because in terms of support and and how big the club is - it's certainly in the top-two biggest clubs in the world. So the expectation to get into the Champions League is there and rightly so.
Obviously, with what Harry's going through, what would Sir Alex have done to get more out of Harry, or to get Harry back playing to where he needs? Would he do the same as Southgate and obviously when the criticism area would come out, defend the player?
Yeah, Sir Alex always defended his players, you very rarely you saw have a pop at players in public - very much the way he dealt with me, as I said, at that time we would bring you in, chat with you about how you felt is there any other reasons apart from football reasons, why it's not happening at this moment in time.
I mean, I remember him giving Peter Schmeichel a month off to go away and have a holiday in Barbados in the middle of the season very much like Jadon and got three months off last season.
I mean that was one of the great things of Sir Alex and his management style - the way he dealt with players, the man management, the understanding that it isn't always just about football, there can be other reasons as well, and he would help you along the way I guess.
Same question with Sir Alex and Sancho, Sir Alex had had the likes of Ronaldo that he’s had to manage and other other amazing players, Nani that was obviously a great talent under Sir Alex Would Sir Alex again, have worked with Jaden to get him back to the level that again, you've seen him at Dortmund, you've seen him show because he's such a talent?
Again, just talking to him, talking to him on the training pitch, talking to him in his office, dealing with non-football issues - if there's any other issues he's got going on in his life.
It's not it's not always just centered around football, you never know what's going on in a player's mind, what's going on in his background, his family life, or anything like that, it's an understanding of everything.
We talk a lot about players hiding things, and you know, he would probably try and could draw that out of you if there's any reason why you're not hitting your top form, and so that comes with experience.
I mean I'm not saying he did it right from the get go when he was manager of Partick or wherever he managed before he managed Aberdeen.
And I mean I certainly think that was his strongest suit - was trying to draw people to get the best out of them whether it be tough love or showing a bit of care, and a bit of understanding - just chatting to players and giving them your trust and your confidence in them to be a better player.
And then a final one, obviously it's been a few years since Manchester United have won the Premier League, you've got the likes of Man City doing really well - winning four out of five and obviously Arsenal improving a little bit - could United end up going another maybe five years until they do?
It's getting so difficult now - Man City are in an incredible moment. I mean they’ve just won the treble. I think as long as Pep is there, they're going to be very difficult to get past. Newcastle have brought money in, and Chelsea have a lot of money.
But yes, it’s a very tough league, Man City are in their pomp and flying high, just winning the Treble, you've got to say Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world, and as long as he's there I think Man City are going to be very difficult to get past, so yeah if we didn't win it in the next five years it wouldn't surprise me.
I think at this moment in time we're just trying to get closer to Manchester City and hopefully we can eventually surpass them but how long that will take is anybody's guess, and as long as Pep’s there I think it's going to be very difficult.
And then looking at the new signing, Rasmus Højlund, came on against Arsenal and looks to be a very, very strong physical centre forward. How much are you looking forward to seeing him, Rashford and then Bruno and even Sancho gelling together and Garnacho as well?
I mean it's a lot of money to pay for a young kid and he’s come on for 15 minutes or so against Arsenal - he actually looks strong, he looks game.
I mean you haven't seen enough of him - I certainly haven’t seen him in an Atlanta shirt - to make any sort of comment, and what kind of player he is, but obviously there's huge expectations.
We struggled for a centre forward last year, we played obviously Weghorst up there and Marcus at times, Martial came back into the fray when he was free of injury but it never really seemed to work.
Obviously Marcus looks better played off the left. And we needed that big strong centre forward as a focal point, so hopefully Højlund can bring that to the party because it's an area that we've been lacking in for a couple of years now.
Just finally on the Champions League, it's an absolutely juicy draw - two giants of European football Man United and Bayern Munich. How do you see those two clashes going? And obviously Harry Kane returns to England.
Well, I think there's a lot of United fans who expected Harry Kane to be here in the red shirt of Manchester United this season and that didn't come to pass. I was very surprised that he went to Germany, Harry.
I thought he would have been trying to break all Premier League records, but you know at Bayern Munich they usually are there or there abouts when it comes to Champions League at the end of the season. And I wouldn't be surprised if they're there or there abouts again this season.
So it’s a massive game you know, as you say - two huge teams that have got great history in the Champions League and now with it being at Bayern, I'm guessing they're going to be favourites.
People are going to be looking at our start this season, which hasn't been as emphatic as we'd like. We've got points on the board, but we've kind of struggled to get where we've got so it'd be no surprise that they're the favourites but it's a mouth watering clash.
It's a free hit, I guess, playing Bayern Munich away, so we can go into that game with and just play with a bit of freedom hopefully, and find the sort of form that we had in the first two thirds of last season.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*