Bryan Robson playing for United.

Sir Alex: Why Robbo was my greatest captain

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:00

Sir Alex Ferguson had plenty of on-pitch leaders during his 26 years at the helm of Manchester United.

The quintet of Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Nemanja Vidic all lifted league titles wearing the captain’s armband and left a huge mark on the dressing room during their tenure.

However, it’s Bryan Robson who our former gaffer counts as his archetypal skipper.

Robbo, who captained the Reds for a record 12 years between 1982 and 1994, was a major figure in terms of ushering in our spell of domestic dominance during the 1990s.

And in a recent Q&A session to promote the new film about our former midfielder, ‘Robbo’, Ferguson had very high praise for the 64-year-old: “Well, he was easily the best captain I had. I think over the period he was at United, he was the best player.”

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So, just why was Robbo such a great skipper?

“The players loved him,” Sir Alex explained. “They responded to him and he was the longest-serving captain in my time anyway.

“It’s difficult for a captain because sometimes he has to tell the truth to players, you know? The encouragement he’s got to give them sometimes can be quite volatile and he was like that, but the players did love him.

“They appreciated the time he took on them and another thing, he’s the only captain I knew who could make a decision on the pitch. He didn’t need to look over to me.

“He would do that and that’s unusual. In fact it’s very unusual because he had the balls to do that.”

Robson harked back to an example from before Sir Alex's time in charge to add to the point.

“It wasn’t just you boss but it was also Big Ron [Atkinson] when we were playing in the FA Cup final against Everton [in 1985],” replied Robbo.

“When Kevin Moran got sent off [after 78 minutes], I felt I had loads of energy in that game and so Ron shouted over to me: ‘Robbo you go to centre-half.’

“I could just about hear and I said: ‘No. Big Frank Stapleton – he does great when he goes back to centre-half. I want to use all my energy up in midfield.’

“Well, we got to half-time [in extra-time] and thankfully we hadn’t conceded a goal. But Ron came in and said: ‘I’ll tell you what, I’m quite happy that Frank’s doing a job at centre-half so he can stay there and you can stay in midfield.’

“I got away with that one but if anyone scored, I think I might have had my head ripped off.”