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Monday, September 21, 2009
Ferguson salutes "inspirational" Robson

At Sir Bobby Robson's thanksgiving service at Durham Cathedral, Sir Alex Ferguson said he was inspired to defer his retirement after heeding the advice of his long time friend.

After Sir Bobby was forced out of his beloved Newcastle United, because of his age, he rang his Manchester United counterpart and was insistent he did not quit.

"It was not a question, it was a demand. 'You're not retiring are you?'," Sir Alex said. "'Of course I'm not' (I said). Not after he'd said that."

Sir Alex appeared disappointed that Sir Bobby was not given longer before he was sacked by Newcastle United. "A man like that could have gone on and on," he said.

In 1981 when Sir Bobby was Ipswich Town manager and had already brought European success to the unfancied Suffolk club, Sir Alex was at Aberdeen and asked if he could pay a visit.

Remarkably, as the two clubs were about to meet in the UEFA Cup, Sir Bobby agreed and his young protegee came down and picked up an array of advice and methods which he used for years after.

And when his Aberdeen knocked out Sir Bobby's side over two legs, the loser came into the winners' dressing room to congratulate them.

Sir Alex said: "In true Robson fashion, he finished by saying 'go and win it, anyone who can beat my Ipswich team must be able to win the cup'."

Sir Bobby cherished his North East mining heritage. Ferguson told the congregation: "He never forgot that. He always knew his roots. Fantastic that he would do that, not to change his entire life. It's a great talent that, not to change, to be the same person."

Speaking about Sir Bobby's fight against cancer, Sir Alex said: "He fought his disease with incredible courage and resilience and showed you what his background was."

The Manchester United manager spoke of Sir Bobby's enthusiasm for football and remembered many times when they would speak about the game together.

"He never lost that enthusiasm," he said. "That enthusiasm, you just can't explain it, special people have got it. I think I speak for almost everyone here in football terms, he influenced me but what made him so special was he influenced people who didn't know him. They admired his courage, his dignity, his enthusiasm."

Sir Alex said people would "forever" remember his "little jig" when England scored against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup.

The manager ended his eulogy: "It has been one of the privileges of my life to have met him and to have been enthused by him. He influenced me then and he's always influenced me."

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