Sharpe: Why Robbo knew everything about the game
If you ever need some protection on a football field, former Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe believes there is no one better to have in your corner than club legend Bryan Robson.
Speaking in a new episode of UTD Podcast, Sharpe told an amusing anecdote that underlined just how committed 'Captain Marvel' was to his fellow team-mates, whether the help they needed was mental, tactical or – in this case – physical.
United were playing Tottenham at home, when the teenage Sharpe received some rough treatment from Spurs midfielder Paul Stewart early in the game.
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"Paul Stewart has done me early," remembered the then youngster, who had signed from Torquay United in 1988.
"I'm on the edge of the box, passed the ball back to the keeper, and Paul Stewart's put his studs right down the back on my ankle."
As club captain, it was Robbo's responsibility to notice these little incidents, and he wasn't willing to simply let the young pro be bullied.
“Robson's gone, 'Are you alright, kid?' and I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah', continued Sharpe. “He's like: 'C'mon then, let's get this game going.'
“About 10 minutes later, Paul Stewart has got this ball, a little trickly ball has come into him in the centre circle, and Bryan Robson’s just gone straight through him. He’s gone straight through him from ankle height to about waste high with a forearm smash to the throat.
“Paul Stewart landed on the deck, virtually crying, getting carried off, and Robson’s turned around to me, winked and gone: ‘You are alright now kid.' I went, ‘Oh yes, I am'.”
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And that was just one of the ways in which Robson – the longest-serving captain in United history – was superior to everyone else, according to Sharpe.
“He just seemed to be on another level,” he explained. “You know what it’s like when you are in the game, to sit in the stand and to watch a game you can see everything, you can see every bit of space, you can see where everyone’s moving. When you are in amongst it, it is hard to see things because there are bodies all around you.
“But Robson just seemed to have his overview of everything, knew where everything was, where we were getting attacked, where we were attacking other teams, where they were weak, where we were strong. Knew what sort of pace the game needed to be played at. What the game needed at any particular time and always just was composed and had time and helped you out. He stood close to you when you were struggling. Gave you room when he knew you were playing well and when you could get on with it. He just knew everything about everybody and everything about the game. He was just on another level.”
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Sharpe, who made 263 appearances for the club between 1988 and 1996, revealed that manager Sir Alex Ferguson demanded the senior players support their younger, more inexperienced colleagues.
And in United's first title-winning team of the Premier League era – which featured players like Robson, Mark Hughes and Paul Ince – there was no shortage of willing volunteers when a scrap was on the cards.
“Even later on when I was playing regularly, there was myself, Giggs and Kanchelskis [who] were probably the only three players who couldn’t kick them back and sort of hurt them if you like,” said Sharpe.
“We had a team full of aggressors who just wanted to fight people as much as play football. The manager was big into us being looked after, especially young lads getting in the team.”
Listen to Sharpe's UTD Podcast on Deezer and all your favourite podcast platforms from 17:00 BST tonight (Monday).
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