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2001-Manchester-United-manager-Sir-Alex-Ferguson-and-Roy-Keane-with-the-FA-Carling-Premiership-trophy-aftre-the-FA.jpg

Robson: I urged Fergie to sign Keane for United despite knowing he’d take his place

Date Posted,June 4, 2017

It was an Alex Ferguson transfer coup that kept Manchester United at the summit of English football for years to come.

It was also a deal that showed the brutal, ruthless side of the Old Trafford boss.

He snatched Roy Keane from Kenny Dalglish’s clutches at Blackburn after listening to the advice of the superstar the Irishman would eventually replace at United.

United’s Double success in 1993-94 witnessed the end of the Bryan Robson era and the beginning of the Keano years. And for one, memorable ­season, they were midfield team-mates in United’s ­pursuit of glory.

Robson recalls his role in recommending Keane to ­Ferguson when the United boss was considering paying a British record fee of £3.75million to Nottingham Forest.

Ferguson almost lost out to Blackburn on Keane as he was reluctant to pay £3.75m (Photo: Getty)

“Funnily enough, I possibly had a bit of an influence on that signing,” Robbo said. “I was in with the staff one morning when they were ­talking about Keane. The boss was asking whether they should pay that sort of money for him. I said, ‘For what it’s worth, Gaffer, I’d pay whatever it takes to get him.’

“People go on about Keane being my natural successor and the similarities between us. He certainly went on to prove his worth as a central midfield player and captain, but every player has his own style and personality and has to be judged as an individual.

“I knew I was shooting ­myself in the foot.

“The first-choice ­combination in midfield would probably be Paul Ince and Keane because I was getting on, but that didn’t bother me as long as I could still be part of United and come in whenever I was needed.”

Captain ­Marvel was 36 when the fresh-faced and ­hungry Keane arrived in the summer of 1993. But ­Dalglish, desperate to build a title-winning team at Ewood Park, believed he had clinched Keane’s ­recruitment although he hadn’t signed the ­contract.

Old warhorse Robson was prepared to play fewer matches to make room for Keane (Photo: Getty)

Keane explained: “I met Kenny Dalglish, agreed a contract with them and a pay rise. I thought Blackburn were going places with ­Dalglish.

“They had got Alan Shearer in and I agreed a deal on a ­Friday night. They said would I come back on the Monday when the ­offices were open again and I said yes.

“It was the end of the season so I went back to Cork for a few days and on Sunday morning I woke up and got a phone call from Alex Ferguson asking to go and meet him.

“I met Brian Kidd, United’s assistant ­manager, and Alex ­Ferguson, played a game of snooker with them and had the usual small talk. They told me how great I was and I ­believed them.

“I decided I wanted to go to United. In the meantime Kenny Dalglish phoned up and I said I had agreed to go to United and he was fuming. I said to him I was going to Cyprus on ­holiday with a few mates and when I came back I was going to sign for United and he said, ‘I’m going to find you.’

Captain Marvel signed off from United in 1994 — after helping them win the Double (Photo: Allsport)

“Every bar in Ayia Napa I was looking over my shoulder expecting to see Kenny ­Dalglish!”

Robson also took with good grace Fergie giving Eric ­Cantona his precious No.7 shirt when squad numbers were introduced in 1993.

“I didn’t even mind losing the No.7 shirt to Eric,” Robbo revealed in his autobiography.

“I knew I would be used a lot as a sub in the 1993-94 season and Eric had shown his value to the club. I was, after all, now a bit-part player for United.”

Robson ably played a ­supporting role for United, making 15 league ­appearances, mostly from the bench, to help them to a ­second successive title.

He also netted his 99th and last United goal in the FA Cup semi-final replay win over ­Oldham.

Eric Cantona, Manchester United's new signing, with manager Alex Ferguson
The arrival of Cantona saw Robson give up the club’s famed No7 shirt (Photo: PA Wire)

But Fergie dropped Robson for the final to end his 13-year United career, during which he made 461 ­appearances, on a sour note.

“After playing my part in the semi-final, I felt I ought to be picked for Wembley, at the very least as a sub,” said ­Robson, who won two league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and one ­Cup Winners’ Cup.

“That was a dampener to my last week with the club. On the day before the final, the boss said, ‘You can have a drink tonight if you want. I’ll be leaving you out of the squad. Here’s a few quid. Get yourself a drink.’

“‘I don’t want your money, I don’t want a drink,’ I replied. I felt more angry than insulted. It was his way of trying to deal with an awkward situation.

“It was a natural reaction to feel a little let down and ­annoyed with the manager.

“I was sorry to leave the club on that note.”

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