UTD Podcast: What Sir Alex told RvP
Speaking on UTD Podcast, Robin reveals what message the boss had for him when he signed from Arsenal in 2012...
Robin, when you joined, did you feel like that little hole in the squad was just meant for you? “Yeah because [Dimitar] Berbatov was about to leave, I think he was on his way, because I did train with Berbatov for a couple of weeks and I could still see his class. Out of protest a little bit, during some training sessions he was playing at centre-back and he was doing very good [laughs]. Berbatov as a centre-back, he was doing very well! But I do believe that, especially in the first year, there was a very good connection with the guys as well – with Ferguson and Meulensteen, the players. Because there was a question from my point of view as well, before I signed, just to check how the older players were looking at me coming to play there. I wanted to know if they were ok with it or not, because we had been competing for the last eight years and we are all human. What was important for me was that the guys would accept me as the player and person that I am. After I checked that, everything was positive.” How did you check that, how did you speak with somebody to see if it would be ok? “Through [Rene] Meulensteen, the assistant coach. He did that and everyone was very positive. After that, it was like the training sessions were different - because it is different with every coach, it is not better or worse, it is just different. But what I noticed with myself, if you look at my body for example, of course during the first couple of years with Arsenal, when I was 25 and 26, if you compare that body physically to the body I had after a year in Manchester, there was more muscles, it was stronger, you could see it from my upper body, from my bum, there were a couple more kilos there and it was all muscle, which must be - because I sometimes I ask myself the question why that was - because of the training sessions and the gym sessions that we did. That was in a different way and for the first time I was getting to know those gym sessions - it was basically exercise after exercise after exercise, for about 12 times, and then a couple of rounds, so it just give you extra body. So it was different, but not better, but it just clicked and with the sessions we had, with Ferguson and Meulensteen, it was very focused on the next opponent. So every week we had different sessions and, for example, if we played against Chelsea, the whole week we were training on going over their left side, our right side, and getting a low cross, a wide and low cross, because we need a low finish against Cech, because Cech is very tall and Cech has difficulties going down. So that detail was what I really liked and that really triggered me. During the week I could really imagine myself and us doing that in the game and most of the games, actually, those practices did actually come out and I think those practices gave us an extra 12 points in that season.” Can you remember your first conversation with Sir Alex and what he expected of you? Did he ask you score 2o to 25 goals, or did you he say ‘we know what you can do, just go and do it’? “He was fairly clear. He said he wanted to use me as the main striker and occasionally behind it, but he didn't really put a lot of pressure on me. He said ‘listen, this is the reason I am buying you, because I believe in you’ and I believe he told me I was the missing link to winning the league. He said 'I will help you because the players need to get to know as well, because of the way you run and the way you play, but I will make it work’. And those words were enough, you know, because you can talk for hours but if you just hear those couple of sentences then you know this will be ok.” It is fascinating that a senior pro – not a young player – with the Premier League Golden Boot award still wanted to check that the players will accept you, which shows a shyness and humility in you. What was it like when those players became team-mates and did you instantly gel? “Yes, we instantly gelled from day one and that was partly because I came in and I had a different role to the one I had at Arsenal. My role at Arsenal, I was their captain and one of the oldest players. Everything behind the pitch, I was helping them with the Christmas dinner and loads of other stuff outside of the pitch. It was different at Manchester because you had the core of the team - Vidic, Rio, Scholes, Giggs, Carrick - they were doing that. Then you had Fergie helping here and there. So I didn't have to lose a lot of energy by organising stuff, so the only thing I had to do was come in, enjoy myself and play. All of the side stuff was already done by those other players, who were older than me and had won loads. In a way, if you look at it from my point of view, of course it was a difficult move and the pressure is on, we needed to win, but in the basics of me playing football it was easy because I didn't have to do all of the other stuff on the side.”