Ex Man Utd star Lee Sharpe: "Sir Alex preferred us to watch TV than play golf"

Former Manchester United player and England international Lee Sharpe talks exclusively to GolfMagic following the launch of his new clothing range at American Golf. 

Andy Roberts's picture
Fri, 2 Dec 2022
Ex Man Utd star Lee Sharpe: "Sir Alex preferred us to watch TV than play golf"

Former Manchester United star turned professional golfer Lee Sharpe has spoken exclusively to GolfMagic following the recent launch of his exciting new Stromberg x Lee Sharpe Collection available at American Golf

Sharpe, who first became an England international in 1991, scored 36 goals in 265 appearances for Manchester United and won seven major trophies during his spell there between 1988 and 1996. 

Many ardent football fans, especially United supporters, will remember Sharpe's famous microphone goal celebration with the corner flag - and that is the exact logo that features on his new Stromberg collection, which comprises polo shirts, midlayers, trousers and hoodies.

While renowned as a Premier League footballer, Sharpe, now 51, has turned his attention to the fairways and is now a professional golfer seeking a career on the European Senior Tour, which is now known as the Legends Tour. 

Sharpe spoke openly to GolfMagic Editor and avid United fan Andy Roberts this week to talk about his blossoming pro golf career and why he has decided to launch a new clothing range with American Golf. 

The former Red Devil also discussed his golf game at large, a new life in Spain, the current clubs in his bag, and how he used to try and sneak out for some golf after training with his Old Trafford teammates despite manager Sir Alex Ferguson urging his players to go home and watch TV! 

Sharpe, who also revealed Roy Keane had absolutely no interest in ever joining him on the golf course, closed out our interview by talking about the best footballers he has ever played with and against, the controversial exit of Cristiano Ronaldo, the future of United under Erik ten Hag, and what he makes of England's chances of winning the World Cup. 

Let's dive into the interview...

Lee, first things first, how proud are you of your Stromberg x Lee Sharpe collection in partnership with American Golf? 

Yeah it’s come out great, it’s taken a while to come to fruition but to work with American Golf and to have such a lovely range, I would never have expected it. American Golf is such a huge company so it's just a privilege. The reaction to our launch has been brilliant and we're all very happy with it. We've got a new colour range coming out after Christmas, and then another one for the summer, so hopefully there's something for everyone! 

As a big United fan myself, I absolutely love your new logo that features your famous corner flag celebration. Did you take any inspiration from the likes of the late Seve Ballesteros or LIV Golf's Phil Mickelson? 

Yeah you know what, we first had a chat in the office about it. I initially thought of Seve when I first mentioned it and I was thinking maybe we shouldn’t use a silhouette because it was a little bit too close to some other players who are far better than I will ever be! But in the end, that's what we ran with, my goal celebration with the corner flag. I wanted to make this clothing range appeal to a wide range of sports fans who like football and golf, so we went ahead with the logo and I think it’s come out great.

We love your new hoodie... 

Thanks, I think the hoodie is my favourite item in the range, too. I am actually quite a traditionalist myself and I do like old school clothes and all of that. But yeah the golf hoodie is great, and a lot of guys on Tour are wearing hoodies now so it’s become acceptable at the majority of golf courses. We’ve all got to move with the times and the trends, so yeah, I'm very happy with it. 


Moving on to your golf career, could you just talk to us about the rapid rise you have taken to become a professional golfer? 

I honestly fell in love with the game when I first started playing it during my football career. But with an obsessive nature I have with sport, I had to be as good as I could. My first handicap was 14 and then I turned pro in England just before the lockdown in 2019. But I’m now based out in Spain so am looking to turn pro out here, and my handicap is now 0.5. So it’s really just a case of trying to get as low as I can now. I’m going to play in a couple of tournaments next year in an attempt to turn pro in Spain. That’s the route we are going with a view to possibly making it on the European Senior Tour. If I can make that level of golf then it would be amazing. I’m going to give it a go anyway. I’ve always loved practising the game as much as I play it, so I am more than happy to do the work and see where it gets me. 

When did you realise that you wanted to give golf a real shot as a professional? 

I had spells of playing lots of golf even when I played at both Manchester United and Leeds United. It was actually Clayton Blackmore (former Manchester United player) who opened my eyes to a pro career in golf one day. He had just turned professional and decided to play for a few quid instead of just playing in club tournaments. I actually played in a Mini Tour event with him somewhere in Manchester a while back, and he put all of that in my head. I then went away and played in a couple of Mini Tour events as an amateur. I then rang up to enter one tournament and they said there were no amateurs playing that week but if I paid a bit extra then I could turn pro. So I did that by accident really, just so I could play in the tournament and that was my amateur status gone in England. But now I’ve got to do it in Spain, which is where I’m based full time. 

So where do you play your golf in Spain? 

Oliva Nova and Villaitana around home in Benidorm, and then I also play out at El Bosque and El Saler in Valencia. 

What's the strongest part of your game? Are you working on anything in particular at the moment? 

I would have to say driving is the best part of my game I think. The short game is probably my worst so that is really an area I'm working hardest on at the moment. There will be lots of chipping and putting practice happening over Christmas I can assure you!

What's your lowest ever round? 

I shot 6-under par on a charity golf day at Scholesy’s [Paul Scholes] club in Manchester. 

What clubs are in the bag right now? 

So I've got a Titleist driver at the moment but I am desperately on the hunt for a new one. I've also got a Titleist 3-wood in the bag. Then I have Orka Golf irons and wedges. I've been using Orka clubs for at least eight years now and love them. The brand has supported me very well in recent years. Then I have quite a few putters that I seem to chop and change with. These range from an old PING Anser Blade right through to a bullseye putter that I use now and again. I also have a Zen putter that is about 10 years old, which is in the style of the PING Anser but a little heavier. I am certainly a tinkerer when it comes to putting that's for sure! 

So who are your golfing heroes? 

Seve Ballesteros for sure. Then I would have to say Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Fred Couples. I just adore the golf swings of Ernie and Freddy, at least when they were both in their primes on the PGA Tour. 

It's one of golf's most famous questions, but who would make up Lee Sharpe's dream fourball? 

I've actually played golf with John Daly before otherwise I would say he would certainly make it in there. I would have to include Tiger Woods just because he is the greatest player of all time, and then I would have loved to have played with Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, too. 

How much golf did you actually get to play during your time at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson? 

You know what, he didn’t like us playing golf at all. He just wanted us to go home after games and training and watch television. So we either just went to the pub or snuck out into town in order to play golf somewhere!

Were there any other good golfers during your time at Manchester United? 

Keano [Roy Keane] never played. He didn’t get golf I don’t think. He’s class though, Roy. He just didn’t get into golf. You either are or you’re not when it comes to golf. Clayton Blackmore played a lot as I say, and Hughesy [Mark Hughes] could play a bit, too. Denis Irwin was also very steady. Scholesy and Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] also love their golf. There were a few others, too. 

What was it like to work under Sir Alex during your eight-year spell at Manchester United from 1988 to 1996. 

He was really tough, He was pretty scary at times, too. But obviously we were very successful as a team and we had some unbelievable times. Not winning the league for 26 years and then winning it regularly from 1993, that was just incredible. We were constantly always in title run-ins under Sir Alex so he did a great job. 

Funniest moment under Sir Alex? 

I remember one time we were trying to hit him in the balls in a little game we used to play in the mornings in training. We used to have two of us in the middle and five around the outside, and you had to try and get the ball back. Whenever we played and he went in the middle, we were all trying to flick the ball up into his nuts. It happened a few times and he would go and boot whoever did it! 

You scored 36 goals in 265 Manchester United appearances, winning seven major trophies in the process. But what do you consider to be your greatest achievement in football? 

The hat-trick against Arsenal at Highbury in the League Cup in 1990 was a special night. I'd have to say winning the Cup Winners Cup in '91 against Barcelona was also a very special moment, so too was winning the first Premier League title and getting my first England cap.

I’ll be honest, you broke my heart when you left for Leeds United... 

Sorry pal. It broke mine, too! 

What was it like working under George Graham at Leeds?

George was another tough cookie. He had very strict rules and he had very regimented ways of playing the game. He was a very strict taskmaster. He had a lot of his teams playing man for man, but it seemed to work and he was a successful manager.

Who would you say was the best footballer you ever played with? And who was the best you ever played against? 

Best I’ve played with, I’d have to say Bryan Robson, he was just an unbelievable captain at Manchester United. He ran the show. He was a phenomenal player. Then I’d also say Paul Gascoigne during my time at England. He was just on another level. He could do things that many of us could only dream about. He was the funniest man off the pitch too, he was just hilarious. Then the best footballer I’ve played against, I'd have to say John Barnes in his pomp was pretty untouchable. I’d also say Romario at Barcelona, he was absolutely electrifying.

How well do you think Erik ten Hag has settled in as the new Manchester United manager? 

I think he’s done a great job. I think we can see improvements already in tactics and in energy levels. I think he’s had a few diplomatic issues to deal with and he’s dealt with them really well. I think as time goes on and he gets the players in that he wants, and he also gets the players out that he wants, then he will have a really strong squad and everyone will know what they’re doing. I think he’s a really top manager. Can he get United back? He seems like he doesn’t get ruffled very easily, and that’s a strong trait to have as United manager. He has dealt with every facet of the job really well and I am confident he can take the club forwards now.

A quick word on Cristiano Ronaldo's controversial exit from Old Trafford... 

It’s all very sad to be honest. It’s a shame it had to end that way. He’s been and was an unbelievable player for Manchester United. No man is ever bigger than the club though, no matter what your name is. It doesn’t matter how many shirts you sell, how good you are on the pitch, if it’s a detriment to the manager, the owners, the ground, the staff, there’s just no way back. Sir Alex has shown in the past he has got rid of some of his best players, and Erik ten Hag appears the same. It could have turned out better, but I think when the dust settles as the years go on, Ronaldo will still be a legend at United.

And finally, as a former England player yourself, do you think Gareth Southgate's side can win the World Cup this month? 

You know, in patches we are showing we have real class and real ability. At other times, I think we look a bit lethargic and slow. I was at the game against Wales on Tuesday night, and it was very warm out there and it can be hard to keep a quick tempo up for 90 minutes, but it was just a little too slow for me at times. Maybe we are a little too negative and defensive minded, but I think going forward we are a real match for anyone in the World Cup. I think England have a real shot at winning it this year. I’m just not sure we have enough to go all the way. If we get through Senegal, then it’s likely to be France in the quarter-finals which will be very tough. It's hard to call, but I think England are as good as anyone on their day and I think we have a great chance. Let's hope anyway. 

Thanks Lee, all the best. 

The Stromberg x Lee Sharpe Collection is available at American Golf online and in selected stores including the Trafford and Leeds megastores.