Hardly could you believe the accommodating and warmness of a man who has accomplished accolades belying his down to earth attitude. My calls for a ten minute closure was answered and here i was speaking with a former Manchester United captain.
Cinnamon Grand was the location, while he’s in Sri Lanka as an ambassador for the club, as part of a historic deal signed between Airtel and Manchester United, to bring the local football and global football communities together. While the questions rang myself, my club loyalties couldnt be hidden. Is it time for Arsene Wenger to go?
Wenger’s position is at an all-time low after three straight defeats to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United, but Robson believes the Arsenal board is right to stay with him because if there’s one who can right the ship, it’s the Frenchman.Asked whether it’s time for a new face at the Emirates, he was quick to praise one of the biggest adversaries of his club in the past. He said; “no, I think Wenger’s a great manager. I think Arsenal is right to stay with him at the moment, but in saying that, he’s not given them a trophy for seven years and that can only last so long, because with a club like Arsenal and the traditions they have they got to be win trophies to stay on. I do think Wenger’s coming under a quite a bit of pressure, but Arsenal should believe in him.”
The discontent stretched to its summit last week when Wenger replaced 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who was the best player on the pitch for the Gunners by a country mile – with erratic Andrey Arshavin in the 73rd minute during the clash with Manchester United. The former had just assisted captain Robin Van Persie to equalize and the crowd responded to the decision with a deafening round of boos. They weren’t helped by the long term jittery future as Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for seven years and are in danger of not qualifying for the UEFA Champions league, next year.
About the decision, the man who was named the greatest Manchester United player ever last year said; “yeah, but it’s the manager’s choice. Managers make decisions for certain reasons which people don’t know. If one is carrying an injury or whatever, managers will take measures like that. For me, Arsene Wenger is a terrific manager and he’s done a great job at Arsenal.”
United won the game eventually thanks to a Danny Wellbeck goal in the final minutes and there’s quite a lot of conjecture about who should replace Sir Alex Ferguson too. The scot has declared he’ll relinquish the position in three years and already ‘generals’ like Jose Mourinho and Pep Gaurdiola are linked, but Robson asserts that someone within the club should be ideal rather than jetting one from outside. “You should ask them that (who will succeed) question (laughs). It’s a real difficult one to answer, because you know Sir Alex is such a great manager. He’s got a fantastic record with Manchester United. It would be very difficult to replace him. People can name whoever they want from around Europe and around the world.”
“I think it should be someone within the club. People like Mike Phelan, René Meulensteen are the two coaches who are working under Sir Alex at the moment and they are doing a magnificent job. Why look outside the club when you have talent inside.”
Last year has seen a few managers from outside the perennial forces put their hand up with sterling performances. Alan Pardew, who was an uncelebrated choice at St. James’ Park in early 2011, has garnered appraisal from Newcastle fans, newly promoted Norwich and Swansea have Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers, who have employed attractive passing football to great rewards and rave reviews and Steve Kean at Blackburn is trying to build a team seemingly without financial patronage from the owners, Venky’s. But Robson says the gaffer who deserves the accolade is Tottenham Hotspurs manager, Harry Redknapp.
“Sir Alex is of course the best manager in the league. But seriously looking at the past year and current situation, you got to say Harry Redknapp. He’s done a marvelous job at Spurs.”
So could they still have a crack at the title? “I know it’s slim. But I wouldn’t dismiss Tottenham. They have got a lot of good players and they were a little bit unlucky against Manchester City; could have easily got a victory there. Had they won that match, they had a great chance but because of the reverse they have slipped so many points behind the Manchester clubs now. It would be very unusual now to slip up. But looking at the other clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal I don’t think they have any chance of winning the league. Tottenham still have an outside chance.”
With neighbours Manchester City – breaking the bank at will with Sheik Mansour hell bent on conquering the EPL – leading the table, there’s no inkling that if not for United, Robson wouldn’t mind Tottenham for the title either.