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Gary Pallister 1989-1998 437 Games 15 Goals

December 29, 2009

wirtten by: Adam Carpenter

Gary Pallister was a vital part of the United team in the nineties and along with his centre half partner Steve Bruce, performed a wonderful job for almost a decade and was a fantastic servant to Manchester United football club. Not only was he a rock like presence for Manchester United, he was also a superb stalwart to his first club since turning professional, which was in the north east at Middlesbrough. If anyone was a better all round defender than Gary was in his time, then you had best let Sir Alex know. Himself and Steve Bruce are arguably considered as one of the best centre back partnerships in the history of the game, and were the foundations of the success that started to come United’s way in the early nineties.

As a 19 year old lad that showed some promise in non league football. Gary was signed up by Middlesbrough as they spotted some potential in him. He was impressive at Boro as a young lad, but a big and mobile unit on the pitch. He contributed to over 160 appearances for them, before the decision came that Sir Alex Ferguson was going to buy him.

Sir Alex bought him for then a British transfer record for a defender of £2.3 million. It was the summer of 1989 and just before the season started he decided to give him his chance alongside partner Steve Bruce. This was a sort of desperate move by Sir Alex, because at this time the side were struggling and some of the reds wanted to see the head of Sir Alex (hard to think I know.) But this transfer proved out to be one of a saver for Sir Alex’s job. Within Gary’s first two years at the club he was settling in well and building a good partnership with Bruce. It did take a couple of years before the partnership was firing at all cylinders as they two years before United signed Pallister, they come second and eleventh. People did not think at the time that this partnership was good enough to help United up to the top of the league and actually win the title, but in Pallister’s third season, was much more of an idea that United could challenge for the title, with a new face in, in the shape of Denis Irwin at left back, and a further addition of Paul Parker on the right side of defence, United were much more stable at the back as Pallister also stepped his game up accordingly to what was required. He had to gain weight to cope with the physical demands of the league, as he was a gangly but quick player. He did this and United finally looked like title threats, finishing second place in the league table, and only four points of champions Leeds. People started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and possibly that this defence could be the foundations of the side actually going on to win the first division that had eluded the club since 1975. The following season the league was renamed as the Barclays premier league and Sir Alex built the club back up in the right way to win the title. This was the season to be where Sir Alex became a hero and he can thank Bruce and Pallister for much of that as they were simply brilliant for most of the season.

From there on these two were like brothers, they read each other’s game play and played to suit the styles of each other. Bruce was the aggressor who went to go straight into the danger zone and risk his body to clear anything away and make crunching challenges, and Pallister sat back and used his pace to sweep up anything Bruce left behind. Both went up regularly for set pieces as Pallister was a frame containing 6 feet and 5 inches, and Bruce was 6 foot, but scoring many goals with his head, these two were very hard to break down. Another beauty with this side that had been shaped by Sir Alex was if anything was to get past the two centre backs, there was always a certain Great Dane in Peter Schmeichel behind them.

Pallister never had any real injury scares at United and was an ever present in the side, only missing one game in the premier league between 1992 and 1995. The wonderful performances of himself and Bruce earned Gary a personal accolade of PFA Player of the Year in 1992, which we all know, is a superb achievement for a defender as of their underestimation in the game. Gary was sold back to Middlesborough in the summer of 1998 for £2.5 million, and was appreciated an awful lot by the fans at Old Trafford after his huge success at the club. There was an immediate replacement of Gary as the big Dutchman Jaap Stam was brought in from PSV for a massive £10.6 million – the most expensive defender in the clubs history up until the signature of Rio Ferdinand. A great player Stam was, but wasn’t as good a value for money as Pallister by a long shot.

The international career of Pallister never really took off with England. He will find himself rather unlucky he only featured 22 times for his nation, especially after all his wonderful days at Boro and United, didn’t seem to be too recognised, as was a similar scenario with his partner Steve Bruce, who never astonishingly appeared not even once for England. Gary never scored for his country and retired in 1996 to focus on his club career.

Nowadays Gary helps work with MUTV as a pundit and has appeared on sky sports news a few times to give his opinion on the more modern day game. He still has an eager eye for watching United and also Middlesbrough, but whilst he watches United play, when fit, a similar partnership to himself and Bruce, at the back of United’s defence have formed over the past few years, in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Vidic playing a style like Bruce did and the big unit in Ferdinand recalling the days of the early nineties, and the success which goes with it as today’s partnership is working well to continue winning the club trophies. The one difference of Ferdinand and Pallister is that Gary has had half the injuries Rio has picked up over his career.

There is no question to whether Gary Pallister goes down as a legend at Manchester United. He is one of the greatest defenders to grace this club in its long history, and will always be remembered by the fans with his amazing partnership with Steve Bruce. The consistency of nearly 450 appearances in nine years showed how much of a legend Gary is!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2009 2:39 pm

    I like this read and Pallister was one of my favourites when he was playing for us, I will never forget his double against Liverpool great game that was

  2. Josh Mangham permalink
    February 22, 2010 9:25 pm

    Is there any way to get into contact with Gary Pallister for an interview?

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