Player Profile: Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath was born in December 1959.

His mother was Irish and a single parent and found it tough to control Paul. Paul spent most of his childhood in orphanages in Dublin but still saw his mother through childhood on visits.

McGrath played schoolboy and junior football before becoming a full time professional with League of Ireland side St Patrick’s.

In 1982 McGrath moved across the Irish Sea to Manchester United to pay under the flamboyant manager Ron Atkinson.

It didn’t take McGrath long to impose himself and he became a first choice at centre back. United and Atkinson started the 1985/86 in a blaze, winning their first ten times.

However they couldn’t maintain their form and finished well off the pace.

The next season didn’t start well and Atkinson was sacked to be replaced by Sir Alex Ferguson.

At the start of the Ferguson era, Mcgrath was in favour but he struggled with a knee condition which meant he was not always available for selection and also Mcgrath was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol.

Sir Alex brought in different options at centre back as he feared that he had seen the best of McGrath at the relatively young age of 30. A testimonial and a payment to McGrath to bring his United career to an end were mooted.

Mcgrath was not in agreement that he was finished and was to determined to show it. United accepted an offer of £400k from Aston Villa and Mcgrath was off to the Midlands.

Liverpool great Ian Rush described how good a player McGrath was.

“People talk about the lack of goals I scored against Man United and the reason for that was Paul McGrath, he was too good.” Ian Rush

McGrath’s Villa form was excellent and he ended up winning two League Cups and also pushed Manchester United very close to the league in 1994.

So good had his season been that he won the PFA Players Player of the Year award in 1993. He was six months shy of his 35th birthday. What an achievement for an ageing defender!

International career

More one was to come though as the Republic of Ireland qualified for the 1994 World Cup.

McGrath made his debut as an international in 1985 and progressed well. He played well in the World Cup 1990 playing every game as Ireland reached the quarter finals.

Four years later in America and carrying a shoulder injury aswell as his longstanding knee condition, he was sensational in a 1-0 victory over Italy in New York. McGrath retired three years later and is widely considered one of the greats to wear the green, white and gold.

‘’Paul was probably the best player I have ever played with… He made it all look so bloody easy’’ Mick McCarthy

McGrath enjoyed two more seasons with Villa, playing most of the games before another two seasons spit between Derby County and Sheffield United before retiring in 1997/98.

Playing style

McGrath had a lazy running style but he did not lack speed. The foundation of his game was his instinctive reading of where the ball would end up so he could swoop with a well timed tackle.

Mcgrath never looked like he was under pressure and he also had good distribution.

Recent years

Mcgrath is no longer actively involved in football as he bravely manages his alcohol dependence although he does appear at events on occasion to earn a small living.