Fergie’s defin­ing mo­ment came 20 years ago – via a Mark Robins goal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

MARK ROBINS’ FA Cup goal in 1990 may not have saved Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s United ca­reer but it bought him valu­able time.

Imag­ine a world in which Howard Ken­dall be­came Man United man­ager in place of plain old Alex Fer­gu­son in the early weeks of 1990.

Pic­ture the foot­ball land­scape 20 years on ... Sir Howard Ken­dall, per­haps?

And what about Fer­gu­son? Had he been shown the door at Old Traf­ford af­ter just three years in charge, how would his ca­reer have mapped out as a for mer United man­ager? Damned as a fail­ure with Wilf McGuin­ness, Frank O’Far­rell and Dave Sex­ton?

Twenty years ago last Thurs­day, Fer­gu­son ap­proached the fork in the road that has since de­fined his ca­reer as United’s most suc­cess­ful man­ager.

It was Jan­uary 7, 1990, when United played Not­ting­ham For­est away in the FA Cup third round.

Without a victory since mid-Novem­ber and with United head­ing for the First Divi­sion rel­e­ga­tion zone, the word was out that de­feat would see Fer­gu­son sacked.

Ken­dall, re­cently in­stalled as Manch­ester City man­ager, had been flagged up as Fer­gu­son’s likely suc­ces­sor.

Four weeks prior to the Cup tie against For­est, United suf­fered a 2-1 de­feat at home to a Crys­tal Palace team routed 9-0 at Liver­pool just three months ear­lier.

Mir­ror­ing the grow­ing dis­en­chant­ment to­wards Fer­gu­son from the ter­races, a ban­ner was un­furled on the Stret­ford End which read, “3 Years of Ex­cuses and It’s Still Crap. Ta Ra Fergie!”

De­cem­ber was a dark pe­riod for Fer­gu­son.

De­spite the strong back­ing of di­rec­tor Bobby Charl­ton, and sub­se­quent in­sis­tence of chair­man Martin Ed­wards that Fer­gu­son would not be sacked had United lost at For­est, de­feat at the City Ground would not have helped the man­ager’s cause.

But the de­feat never came. A decisive header by Mark Robins, a 20-year-old prod­uct of United’s re­vi­talised youth sys­tem, se­cured a 1-0 victory and be­came for­ever known as the “goal that saved Fergie’s job”. – The Tele­graph

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