Tuesday 25 June 2019

Keane suited by No 2 brief - but he will return to management, insists United legend Robson

United legend expects Corkman to return to top job eventually

Bryan Robson in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Bryan Robson in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

They were big personalities in a Manchester United dressing-room, although they only overlapped for a season.

Bryan Robson and Roy Keane both had strong opinions and the old captain had an idea that the future one would go on to shine.

Indeed, in a casual chat with Alex Ferguson and staff, he had recommended that United pay out the record £3.75m fee to bring the Corkman in from Nottingham Forest.

But while Keane liked to make his presence felt on the pitch, Robson can understand why he might like his current role as No 2 to Martin O'Neill.

That's because he has happy memories of his own time as an international understudy to Terry Venables.

"Sometimes it can suit you being a No 2 rather than a No 1," said Robson, speaking on a visit to Dublin yesterday.

"Martin O'Neill has proven over the years that his man-management style is pretty good so Roy is maybe a bit more chilled being No 2.

"He can enjoy the training and the bit of banter with the players rather than having to go in and have a go at the players. It maybe suits Roy that little bit more.

"I've been in the same position myself, I was manager at Middlesbrough and West Brom and you're the one who has got to lay the rules down for your players whereas your coaches can enjoy it a bit more.

"I had that situation when I was with England, that was one of the most enjoyable jobs I had, being assistant to Terry Venables for a couple of years. I really enjoyed the role. Roy obviously enjoys the role under Martin O'Neill.

"You have to be professional, but you're not putting yourself in the firing line."

Robson reckons it is inevitable that Keane will one day return to management, considering he has a "strong mind" and "strong opinions". They are qualities that he respects, although they have not always been on the same page in recent years.

Robson has remained on good terms with Ferguson, whereas Keane is on the outside and critical of the old boys' network that remains affiliated with United.

Indeed, Robson's work as a club ambassador attracted his ire, with Paddy Crerand also caught in the crossfire around the 2014 release of Keane's latest autobiography.

Certainly, the ex-England captain takes a more generous view of United's current position than Keane.

He speaks like a man who is very much inside the tent, right down to the use of 'we'.

"We've been improving," he says. "If City had been the same as a Liverpool or a Tottenham this season, everybody would be saying, 'United are top of the league', and everybody would be really happy.

"But because of the way City are playing and what they've done this season, they have set new standards and you've got to get to those standards.

" (Jose) Mourinho seems to attract more criticism than any of the other managers yet Liverpool and Tottenham are worse off than us.

!We're second in the league. More pressure has come on because of how City are doing and a real poor performance in the Champions League against Sevilla.

"But everybody around Man United held their hands up and knows it was a really poor performance. You can't get away with a performance like that when you play for Man United."

There is a theory that the dominance of their neighbours is what's making things worse for Mourinho, but Robson disputes the view.

"It would be harder if it was Liverpool," he argues. "As an ex-player, it would be and a lot of ex-players would feel that too."

Yet he believes that Pep Guardiola's side are serious Champions League contenders, an achievement that would certainly make it hard for United officialdom to put a positive spin on their own campaign.

"They can win it as long as they don't get any injuries to their top players," he said. "Aguero, De Bruyne, Sane, they've got a lot of options and players with real pace.

"But I think Real Madrid will be a real danger because they've fallen away in the league, and they are getting criticism there.

"You saw against PSG that they can raise their game, their players have been there and they've won it for two years in a row and it wouldn't surprise me if they did it for a third time."

  • Bryan Robson was speaking at the launch of Carling's Play on a Premier League Pitch Competition.

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