During a recent Q&A session to promote a new documentary about Bryan Robson, Alex Ferguson stated that “Well, he was easily the best captain I had. I think over the period he was at United, he was the best player.”
This was huge praise considering that Ferguson worked with a long list of inspiring captains such as Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona, and Nemanja Vidic.
The cynics among us may see it as a slight dig on Keane, who trophy-wise was Fergie’s most successful captain. Although, it would be wrong to take anything away from the brilliance of Robson, who was also Ferguson’s longest serving captain.
Indeed, Keane would most likely agree with Ferguson, as Robson was one of his role-models whom he modelled his game after.
However, there are obvious parallels to the choice Keane made when asked who the best manager he served under was. Despite the sheer amount of success he had with Ferguson, it was Brian Clough to whom he bestowed the honour.
Are Keano and Fergie just two former lovers who have suffered through a bitter breakup, and are unwilling to admit how special the good times really were? Or do they genuinely believe their first loves were their best?
While the answer Keane gave is short and sweet, Ferguson went into more detail to explain his choice and to praise Robson.
"The players loved him. They responded to him and he was the longest-serving captain in my time anyway.
“It’s difficult for a captain because sometimes he has to tell the truth to players, you know? The encouragement he’s got to give them sometimes can be quite volatile and he was like that, but the players did love him.
“They appreciated the time he took on them and another thing, he’s the only captain I knew who could make a decision on the pitch. He didn’t need to look over to me.
“He would do that and that’s unusual. In fact it’s very unusual because he had the balls to do that.”
Again, not to take away from either the brilliance of Robson or the legendary stature of Clough, you can’t help but wonder whether there is just a shade of spite in the respective choices of Ferguson and Keane.