Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Manchester United hero Robins hopes to knock Fergie out of Carling Cup

Almost 20 years after his FA Cup goal for Manchester United probably saved Alex Ferguson's job, Barnsley boss Mark Robins will try and knock his former manager out of the Carling Cup at Oakwell tonight.

Robins' goal in a 1-0 third-round victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in January 1990 came at a time when the pressure was on Ferguson after three trophyless years at United.

United went on to win the FA Cup that year; the European Cup Winners' Cup arrived the following season and in 1993 Ferguson won the first of his 11 Premier League titles.

The Scot is still going strong at Old Trafford, despite yesterday's 2-0 league defeat to rivals Liverpool, having won 23 titles to become the most successful manager in English football.

Had Robins not scored that goal and United lost to Forest, the club may well have fired Ferguson — thus changing the recent history of the game in this country and on the continent.

Ahead of the Carling Cup holders' fourth-round visit, Robins recalled how he wrote his name into United folklore.

“I had just broken into the first-team fold. The week before I had scored my first league goal against Wimbledon at Plough Lane. There was no alternative but to play me against Forest because there were a lot of injuries to senior players,” said the 39-year-old.

“In the first half, I got a chance where the ball was played into my feet. I had my back to goal but I turned and hit it just past the post. I got the hair-dryer treatment at half-time because I didn't lay it back to Brian McClair.

“For the goal, I remember Lee Martin was tackled, the ball came to Mark Hughes and with the outside of his right foot he laid it into the penalty area, but it hit the ground as it came up to me and I needed to guide it back where it came from.

“I got pushed in the back by one of their players but it went in the net and we won 1-0.”

Robins is more than happy to accept the credit for saving Ferguson's job, even if the United boss has a different version of the events that day.

He said: “It's nice that people think of the goal in that way and that I can have that claim, if you like.

“But Sir Alex wrote a book and, in it, he was asked the question did the goal save his job? He wrote that in training I would have missed it — but because I got a push in the back from Stuart Pearce it went in! So did I save his job? Yes, I did.”

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