It’s only natural for English football fans to question the national team manager’s selections. If an England boss chooses the same player again and again, he might get accused of favouritism. Similarly, if he fails to call up someone from a mid-table team, big-club bias claims inevitably get thrown around. Gareth Southgate usually selects squads from a variety of teams, but many fans still question who he supports.
Southgate grew up as a huge Manchester United fan. However, it’s unclear if he still supports the Red Devils. The England manager idolised Bryan Robson as a kid and wanted to follow in the legendary midfielder’s footsteps.
Southgate wrote about his early Manchester United fandom in his bestselling book, Anything Is Possible, available on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate First Print Football earns from qualifying purchases. When you buy something through links in our articles, we may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
Gareth Southgate cried after a Man Utd defeat
In 1976, Manchester United lost the FA Cup final against Southampton. Bobby Stokes scored the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute as Lawrie McMenemy’s side ran out 1-0 winners at Wembley. Almost 100,000 fans packed into the national stadium that day. Meanwhile, back at home, a five-year-old Gareth Southgate watched his beloved United on a television set.
“I supported Manchester United, and experienced the excitement of following my team from one season to the next,” Southgate wrote in his book. “I also had a taste of heartbreak when they lost to Southampton in the FA Cup final one year, and ended up bawling my eyes out.”
In those days, United’s standout players included Alex Stepney, Lou Macari, Sammy McIlroy and Steve Coppell. The Red Devils finished third in the top flight that season, while Southampton ended the campaign sixth in the second tier.
Could Gareth Southgate have played for Man Utd?
Realistically, Gareth Southgate’s best opportunity to sign for Manchester United came in 2003. Sir Alex Ferguson needed a new centre-back to cover for the loss of Rio Ferdinand during his eight-month ban. Around that time, Southgate publicly expressed an interest in playing Champions League football – something Middlesbrough couldn’t offer him.
Newspapers often linked the former England defender with a move to Old Trafford, but the speculation never went anywhere. United got by with John O’Shea and Mikael Silvestre at the back during Ferdinand’s absence, while Southgate stayed at Middlesbrough until retiring from the game in 2006.
Steve McClaren, Middlesbrough’s manager between 2001 and 2006, had already made it clear he wouldn’t have let Southgate leave even if United made an offer. “I’m not surprised some top clubs may want Gareth after the way he has performed for us, but there is no way I would contemplate letting him go,” McClaren said in 2003.
Who did Gareth Southgate play for?
Many players stop supporting their favourite team when they turn professional. It’s not known if Gareth Southgate still follows Manchester United like he did as a child, or whether the Red Devils became just another club to him once he fulfilled his dream of becoming a footballer.
Southgate played for Crystal Palace (1988-1995), Aston Villa (1995-2001) and Middlesbrough (2001-2006) during a career spanning 18 years. He also spent time on the books at Southampton as a youth team player.
At international level, Southgate earned 57 caps and scored two goals for England between 1995 and 2004. He went on to manage Middlesbrough and England Under-21s before landing the role as England’s senior team manager in 2016.