MARK Robins is widely regarded as the player who saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career at Manchester United.
Back before Fergie went on to dominate English football and the Premier League, Robins – now a successful manager with Huddersfield Town – netted a vital winner in an FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
It clinched a 1-0 third-round win at the City Ground on January 7, 1990. Without that goal there would have been no Nou Camp in 1999, no dramatic Champions League final penalty shoot-out in Moscow.
For Fergie’s side went on to win the FA Cup that season, he stayed in his post, and the rest is history.
I wonder if people will look back on March 19, 2014 with similar feelings when we assess the career of Fergie’s successor, David Moyes.
And will Robin van Persie be mentioned in the same breath as Robins 20 years from now?
For make no mistake, van Persie’s hat-trick against Olympiakos rescued United from certain elimination from the Champions League.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Greece, the obituaries were being written for Moyes.
This is a club who expect to be playing Champions League football; such is their financial turnover, they need to be playing among Europe’s elite. And with the prospects of United reaching next season’s tournament fading – particularly on the back of a 3-0 thrashing from arch rivals Liverpool last Sunday – their best bet looks like winning the trophy this season and turning out as defending champions next year.
That statement alone shows how unlikely they are to attain Champions League football via their league position, given that they face defending champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. Personally, I cannot see them beating the Germans.
It is a rematch of that 1999 Champions League final, when late goals from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham snatched victory from Bayern’s grasp.
Chelsea – England’s other remaining team in the quarter-finals – face French side PSG, and I predict the Blues will progress to the semi-finals.
But it’s that United-Bayern game which will get people talking, with the Old Trafford side not favoured by the bookies, who are offering 20-1 for them to win the tournament.
That shows the depth of United’s decline.
Am I the only one not surprised at David Moyes’s struggles since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson? He was always on to a loser, coming onboard after Sir Alex had orchestrated two decades of success.
Last year United over-performed to win the Premier League – Ferguson squeezed every last drop from an average United midfield and defence – and a serious rebuilding job is now required which will take time and money.
United may have the money, but the ridiculous clamour over the future of Moyes – who can hide behind a six-year contract – is a knee-jerk reaction and suggests he may not have that other valuable commodity, time.
It also suggests van Persie’s goals may – unlike Robins’s strike – just be delaying the inevitable.