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By ESPN Staff

Saviour Robins: Fergie just cannot let go

Mark Robins, the man once credited with keeping Sir Alex Ferguson in his job, believes the Manchester United manager will find it all but impossible to retire.

Ferguson, who announced his retirement in 2002 but then changed his mind, celebrates an astonishing 20 years at Old Trafford on Monday.

He arrived from Aberdeen, where he had broken the dominance of Rangers and Celtic, and has since presided over a remarkable period.

Winning the title in 1993 ended a 26-year wait for league glory and proved the catalyst for a run of sustained success which saw United overhaul bitter rivals Liverpool as the dominant force in English football.

Yet as he approaches his 65th birthday next month, Ferguson's burning desire to capture further silverware shows no sign of diminishing.

'He'll be in the job until he stops breathing,' claimed Robins. 'I honestly think that he will go on for as long as he can, without a shadow of a doubt.

'He's so passionate and he can't live without football. It's instilled in him and is in his blood.

'I don't think you can ever take that away and the day that happens will be the day he stops breathing.

'To manage United for 20 years is absolutely phenomenal and why should he give it up as long as he is fit and healthy?'

Ferguson had a pacemaker fitted in March 2004 after initially receiving treatment for a heart condition.

But Robins, 36, feels the challenge of wresting the Premiership title from Chelsea and landing another European Cup will keep his erstwhile boss in rude health.

'He wants to build another team and that's what he's doing,' said the former United striker.

'Obviously he's excited about it and it keeps him young. He had all those outstanding players, such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville, who came through in the early to mid-90s, and now he's trying to build another team.

'The treble team in 1999 was proven but this one is a work in progress.

'That challenge of toppling Chelsea will spur him on and this season they're looking like they're capable of winning the league.'

Ferguson has won eight Premiership trophies, five FA Cups, two League Cups, a European Cup and a European Cup Winners' Cup.

And yet it may all have been different if United had not beaten Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round on January 7, 1990.

Ferguson was under severe pressure to compensate for United's failure to challenge for the league title by making progress in the cup and Robins - a lifelong United fan from Oldham - scored to give Ferguson's men a 1-0 win and set them on their way to winning the famous trophy.

'United weren't doing so well in the league , Forest were flying and yes, Fergie was under pressure,' Robins added.

'We went into the game desperately needing a win because we were down there in the bottom half of the league.

'The build-up to the FA Cup is different anyway and I think Fergie probably used that psychologically to get a different build-up and get the players in the right frame of mind.

'So we were just thinking about the FA Cup and not the pressure the manager was under.'

Robins, now head of youth football at Rotherham, laughs about it now but the significance of his goal at the City Ground cannot be overstated.

He said: 'Mark Hughes put the ball in with the outside of his right foot and there was nothing else I could do but head it right back the way it came and into the corner.

'It was fate and I was delighted and proud to have played a part in us going on to win the FA Cup that season.'

Not that he has ever received any thanks from Ferguson for potentially saving his job.

'You wouldn't expect him to either, would you?' admitted Robins.

'It was just a game and he picks players to do a job and I did my job on the day.'