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Viv Anderson Exclusive: Easy decision to leave Arsenal for Fergie's Man Utd

Young Arsenal fans would be mistaken if they thought Robin van Persie was the first player to be lured away from north London by Sir Alex Ferguson.

In the summer of 1987, the Manchester United manager sought to strengthen his defence after moving the club from 22nd to 11th in his first six months in charge.

The name that came to mind was Viv Anderson - a two-time European Cup and first First Division title winner with Nottingham Forest who had became the first ever black player to win an England cap in 1978.

With his Forest career stalling, the right-back decided to join Arsenal in 1984. Playing under pragmatic manager George Graham, Anderson won six consecutive England caps from 1984 and into 1985 and the 1987 League Cup.

The 30-year-old was rewarded with a three-year contract offer from the Gunners at the end of the 1987 season. Arsenal expected Anderson to agree to the new deal but he instead signed with United, the same club who had released him as a teenager. His departure left Graham furious as he was unable to bring in a direct replacement until Lee Dixon arrived the following summer.

But Anderson has told Tribalfootball that there was no competition once the opportunity to join his boyhood heroes became a reality.

"Obviously I went there as a kid and was rejected," Anderson told Tribalfootball in an exclusive interview.

"My first love was Manchester United. To go back was always a great thing.

"How did he convince me? He didn't have to convince me. My contract was up and I spoke to Bryan Robson about the new manager.

"I met the new manager and instantly I thought he was the right man for the job. And I took seconds to convince myself that it was the right thing to do."

Unlike van Persie in 2012, Arsenal received compensation of £250,000 for Anderson's signature as the move was pre-Bosman era.

The versatile defender repaid the club ten-fold as he became an integral part of Ferguson's side that would finish second the following season.

That progress wasn't sustained however, with United finishing 11th and 13th in 1988/89 and 1989/90. Pressure was building on Ferguson, with some stating his job was on the line before United's 1990 FA Cup final triumph over Crystal Palace.

Anderson watched the match from the sidelines after being replaced by young midfielder Paul Ince at right-back. He would leave the club for Sheffield Wednesday six months later following the arrival of Denis Irwin from Oldham Atheltic.

Ryan Giggs would make his first-team debut the following season, kicking off a string of young players that would emerge from the club's academy, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

And Anderson believes that his first piece of silverware, as well as the emergence of a batch of talented youngsters, helped transform the Scotsman's legacy during its formative stage.

"We won the cup within his first few years when Lee Martin scored and it was still in a transition at that time," Anderson added.

"So winning a trophy was really important because prior to that there was talk of him getting the sack, maybe about six weeks before we won the (FA) Cup. I always remember going to Nottingham Forest and winning because there was talk of it before that he was going to get the sack.

"And then he had some really good players come through the ranks. He had Butt, Scholes, Giggs, the Nevilles, David Beckham. They all come through at the same time and to get six or seven players of that quality to come through, you were always going to make your football club better. Aligned with the players he had already, he was always going to snowball from there.

"It's a combination of managing to win something very early on in his career when he thought he was going to get the sack, and then the influence of the younger boys enhanced what was going to be a dynasty."



Viv Anderson MBE was speaking to Tribalfootball to promote the partnership between 'Playonpro' and 'REDSTRIKE'.

Click here to find out more information on Playonpro.

Andrew Maclean
About the author

Andrew Maclean

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