Bryan Robson is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of a generation.
Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as ‘the best captain I ever had’, Captain Marvel became synonymous with the revered No 7 shirt as he led Manchester United and England by example, having started his career at West Bromwich Albion.
He won two Premier League winners’ medals, three FA Cups, one Football League Cup, two FA Charity Shields and a European Cup Winners’ Cup at United and earned 90 caps for his country, captaining England 65 times. Only Bobby Moore and Billy Wright led England on more occasions.
As a new film about his life, Robbo: the Bryan Robson Story, premieres in Manchester on Thursday, he talks to Sportsmail about the seven games that meant the most to him throughout his colourful career as a player and manager.
Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson has revealed his top seven games
A new film about his life, Robbo: the Bryan Robson Story, premiered in Manchester on Thursday, and the past and present of Manchester United were in attendance, including (left-right) current captain Harry Maguire, caretaker manager Michael Carrick, Robson, legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and record goalscorer Wayne Rooney
Robson enjoyed a sparkling career as a player, winning two Premier League titles with United
England v Finland, Mini World Cup Final, 1975 (UEFA international youth tournament)
This was my first big success and a great two-and-a-half weeks’ experience in Switzerland.
We had played a few games and done well prior to the tournament in Gran Canaria and in Switzerland the coach Ken Burton decided to play me at centre half alongside Steve Wicks of Chelsea because Dave Jones, the ex-Southampton manager, injured his knee.
We had Alan Curbishley, Ray Wilkins, Glenn Hoddle and Peter Barnes in midfield. We had beaten Spain to get there then topped the group by beating the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and Northern Ireland. We then beat Hungary 3-1 with John Sparrow the Chelsea full-back scoring two free-kicks.
We played Finland in the final in Bern and it was 0-0 until Ray scored the winner, a ‘golden goal’ in extra time.
Robson had his first big success with the England youth team alongside Ray Wilkins (right)
Ray and I roomed together. We first met at the Lilleshall training centre. We had a week there to prove ourselves good enough to get in the squad. Ray was a talker and I liked to say a bit too. We got on really well, both just kids crazy about football and that bonded us for life.
I miss Ray a lot. His death was a real shock, he was a great lad. We had one of those friendships where we didn’t see each other for months then when we met up it was like we’d never been apart.
Oldham v West Brom, Division Two, 1975-76
Johnny Giles was manager and being part of that squad was my first experience of winning promotion. We had taken thousands of supporters there and it felt as if we were the home team.
Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown scored the only goal, another cracker from him. What an unbelievable striker of the ball he was. I can remember us going up into the directors’ box to celebrate afterwards and then getting the coach back to West Brom. All the fans were driving past beeping their horns giving us an escort back.
We always had a few crates of beer for the trip, but I could only drink a couple back then before the room would start spinning. I was sat next to Len Cantello. I sold my car to put a deposit on a flat and sometimes I’d get the bus to training but sometimes Len would pick me up, so we became close friends.
His first memory of winning promotion came with West Brom as they overcame Oldham in 76
Manchester United v Barcelona, European Cup Winners Cup, 1991
I consider this the best game I ever played for United. Brian McClair, who did a brilliant job of man-marking Ronald Koeman that night, later coached the academy kids and said he used to show them how I played that game as an example of how to play in midfield.
It was dashing down with rain and it suited us to keep pinging the ball over their defence to get Lee Sharpe, who was pretty quick, in behind. I remember Mark Hughes making hard work of what I thought was a great pass for his second goal but to be fair he smashed it in from a tough angle.
It was the first season English clubs were allowed back into European competition following a five-year ban and United’s first European final since 1968 so to come back and lift the trophy against such a great side was fantastic. It was a great party as well into the night and the morning.
His favourite display in a Man United shirt was against Barcelona in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup
Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, 1993
My first league title and United’s first for 26 years. We watched Oldham beat Aston Villa the night before which ensured the title was ours and all went round to Steve Bruce’s house with our wives to celebrate.
I think everyone had emptied their fridges of booze and took it to Brucie’s. Denise and I were in the kitchen doing the washing up at 4am but we didn’t have to be at Old Trafford for the Blackburn game pre-match until 5pm so we were all able to sleep through the day.
Before the match Brian Kidd was winding up Gary Pallister about being the only player not to score that season, so Pally was shouting ‘I’m on free-kicks’. I always claim an assist as Colin Hendry brought me down for a free-kick late on just as I was breaking into the box and sure enough Pally put it in to make it 3-1.
Sir Alex suggested I went up with Brucie to collect the Premier League trophy. To lift it, while Sir Matt Busby was there too, after waiting all that time was such a special moment.
He played his part against Blackburn Rovers to inspire a 3-1 win and secure the league title
Manchester United v Coventry City, Premier League, 1994
We had retained the title and this was my final league appearance for United. I was on 99 goals and the lads were trying their hardest to tee me up for my 100th. Brian McClair went through for a sitter but squared it to me and I hit the bar.
We drew 0-0, it wasn’t the greatest game but it was a special time. We had the FA Cup final for the Double against Chelsea a week later so we celebrated by going for a day out at Chester Races.
Walter Swinburn, the jockey, was a big United fan and friend of mine and he gave me a 9/4 tip for the last race. We all piled on it, I swear some of the lads were more excited when that came in than when we had won the title days before.
They retained the crown the following year against Coventry, his final league game for United
Of course, I was hurt to be left out of the Cup final team. I thought I might have got on the bench but it wasn’t to be. There were only two outfield subs then and Sir Alex and his wife Cathy say it was the worst decision he made.
However, when I was at Middlesbrough I later grew to understand how difficult it was to pick a cup final team and keep everyone happy. You want to put lads in who have helped you get there but ultimately you have to think who can give you the best cover. Sir Alex chose Brian McClair and Lee Sharpe that day, they won 4-0 and secured the Double.
Middlesbrough v Luton Town, Division One, 1995
I’ve often said the Cup Winners’ Cup final win for United against Barcelona was my best game but winning promotion at the first attempt as player-manager with Middlesbrough was a huge achievement.
People had said I wouldn’t make it. That Bobby Charlton had struggled as a manager, Bobby Moore had and I would be the next ex-England captain to fail. I was determined to prove people wrong.
Robson proved his doubters wrong by winning promotion with Middlesbrough as player/boss
David Pleat had cleverly ramped up the pressure beforehand but this was the last game at the old Ayresome Park. I put myself in the team and the atmosphere was terrific. We won 2-1 with John Hendrie scoring both so it meant we went up to the Premier League in my first season.
We still had a game at Tranmere to play so the lads came into training on Monday but myself, Viv Anderson and Gordon McQueen had opened a few bottles of champagne for them so they could celebrate.
West Brom v Portsmouth, Premier League, 2005
The Great Escape. We were bottom of the league on the final day but we’d got a draw at Old Trafford the week before and there was belief about the team.
I’d told the lads ‘win our game and we’ll stay up’. I’d studied the table and fixtures for weeks and knew others would drop points that day. Before the game I asked Richard Hawkins, our sports science guy, to compile a feelgood video about what the players did well to give them a lift. He played the Al Pacino speech over it from the film ‘Any Given Sunday’.
Before the match a few were taking little nips of Cognac as it helped take the edge off their nerves. I didn’t mind as it’s something I’ve seen through the years as long as they didn’t take too much.
He pulled off one of the most famous Premier League survivals in history with West Brom
Robson is soaked in champagne after beating Portsmouth 2-0 win the final day of the season
It was hard going at 0-0 then I brought Geoff Horsfield on. I told him I wanted him to get involved in the middle and get closer to Kevin Campbell. He scored after 20 seconds of coming on. I found out later he’d been renovating a house, knocking down walls and putting in girders after 10pm the night before.
Once we got in front, the Portsmouth fans were singing for us as they wanted Southampton to go down. That actually gave us a lift. The wait for other results to come through afterwards, listening to fans’ radios, was horrendous. The relief knowing we’d stayed up was incredible.
It was certainly one of my greatest achievements. I went for a curry in Walsall afterwards with my wife Denise and my brother-in-law but I was that exhausted I was in bed for 10.30pm.
ROBBO: The Bryan Robson Story will be available on DVD, Blu Ray and digital download from November 29. Pre orders are available from Amazon, AppleTV and SkyStore.