International Champions Cup 2019

Robson tips Smalling, Jones and Bailly as captain material

Bryan Robson.
Bryan Robson.

Inside a little motor garage in Ubi yesterday, a Manchester United legend dropped pearls of wisdom.

On the sidelines of a meet-and-greet at automobile store Autobacs, former Manchester United skipper Bryan Robson - revered as "Captain Marvel" by the club's faithful - said he believes the United squad are good enough to finish in the top four of the English Premier League and earn a return to the Champions League in the upcoming season.

Making an appearance at the store at the invitation of one of United's global partners Gulf Oil, Robson, 62, said: "There are loads of good players in the squad now.

"The thing about us is that we let ourselves down last season.

"So this season it's a fresh start really with Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer, United manager). The players know that they've got to do better than what they did last year.

"With a couple more new signings, I think we'll be in good shape to try and compete to get back into the Champions League."

Solskjaer, who was given the permanent post at United in March after a bright run as caretaker manager, guided the team to sixth last season.

NEW BEGINNING

This season it's a fresh start really with Ole. The players know that they've got to do better than what they did last year.

BRYAN ROBSON, former Manchester United captain, backing the team to excel under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first full season in charge as manager.

The Norwegian said last week that his team needed a leader in the mould of Robson, and the former England midfielder said there are potential "Captain Marvels" in the squad.

Tipping the likes of defenders Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly as unpolished leaders, Robson said: "Some of the boys are capable of doing this, but they need to communicate and drive their teammates on if they want to get the best for themselves and the best for the teammates.

"I think this squad at this moment of time, is quite a quiet team and don't demand enough from each other."

Another candidate as leader, said Robson, is the polarising France international Paul Pogba.

The 26-year-old has made comments in pre-season suggesting he would like a move away from United, a sentiment echoed by his agent, Mino Raiola.

Describing Pogba as a "player you don't want to lose", Robson slammed Raiola, adding: "I think players listen far too much to agents, instead of deciding what they want to do with their career.

"I (am) trying to put it in Paul's head - make your own decision. Don't allow an agent to make a decision on how you want your career to go."

He added he has been encouraged by the way Solskjaer has fostered a "happy camp" among the United players in pre-season so far.

He hailed the manager's courage in blooding youngsters like Mason Greenwood, James Garner, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes into the first team.

Greenwood's goal last night gave them a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in their International Champions Cup match at the National Stadium.

"At United, we've always had the ambition to bring kids through the ranks and give them an opportunity, and it seems as if we've gone back to that," said Robson.

Sazali Abdul Aziz

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 21, 2019, with the headline 'Robson tips Smalling, Jones and Bailly as captain material'. Print Edition | Subscribe