Conventional wisdom that Robins saved Fergie's skin is a myth - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Conventional wisdom that Robins saved Fergie's skin is a myth

It is the goal that saved Alex Ferguson's job, and without which the course of modern football history would have been very different.

There would have been no knighthood and near-deification for Ferguson, no two Champions Leagues and umpteen domestic titles for Manchester United, the Glazers would still be anonymous corporate raiders, who knows, maybe Liverpool would still be on their perch.

Perhaps the last bit is fanciful, Liverpool were already in decline in 1990, but according to legend Ferguson would have been drummed out of Old Trafford after less than four years had it not been for Mark Robins' winner at Nottingham Forest in the 1990 FA Cup third round. Never mind eclipsing Sir Matt Busby, his record would have been put in the shade by Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson. Then up popped Robins, now manager at Barnsley, to score the most important of his 11 goals for United.

So goes the tale. But legends are usually myths and there has been an absolute consistency of denial from the people in charge of United at the time. Sir Bobby Charlton repeated the line again this week, stressing that while the media were writing Ferguson off, the board had not.

Charlton emphasised, again, that Ferguson's work behind the scenes had so impressed everyone at Old Trafford that they were prepared to wait. United were 15th that January, and defeat at the City Ground would have left them with nothing but a relegation battle. But Charlton, then-chairman Martin Edwards and the still-influential Busby admired the manner in which Ferguson had tackled the drinking culture endemic in the squad he had inherited. They were also enthused by his commitment to youth development.

Eric Harrison, the man who brought through David Beckham, Paul Scholes et al, was head of youth development. He said recently that a few weeks after Ferguson took over, the new manager had come to see him and demanded he supply better young players. "Give me the scouts and I'll give you the players," replied Harrison. Ferguson tripled the scouting staff, and the players duly arrived. Of course, even the patience of Charlton would have worn thin eventually – an unsuccessful manager can be tolerated for only so long – but Robins the rescuer? It is a nice tale, but, as the scorer himself once said, "I think it's become more significant over time because of Alex Ferguson's achievements."

News
Residents of James Turner Street such as White Dee will have a chance to share their experiences of benefits on a Channel 4 spin-off show
peopleBenefits Street star says mixed-race children were subjected to trolling
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Extras
indybest
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Life and Style
Jourdan Dunn gave TopShop’s Unique show some added glamour at London Fashion Week
fashion week
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories