THE last time things were this bad at Old Trafford Bryan Robson ordered team-mates to the pub to thrash it out.
Manchester United players were told to leave their cars after training and head into town for a showdown.
There were to be no exceptions, no no-shows. And it was going to take as long as necessary.
The idea that, 30 years on, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s entire first team might head to the boozer to sort out their problems seems crazy in these modern PC times.
Yet after gaining just eight points from their first eight games — one fewer than Solskjaer’s men — the class of 1989-90 did exactly that.
Former full-back Viv Anderson said: “In those days the manager needed the senior players to help him.
“Something had to be done — by us players, not the manager.
“So Robbo as captain and the senior players took it upon themselves to act.
“Robbo, me, Steve Bruce, we took it upon ourselves to galvanise the boys and say, ‘Listen, our form is not acceptable. This is Manchester United. We need to step it up’.
“So the order went out and we all headed out to a pub in the middle of town.
“We finished training, went straight from the old Cliff training ground, cabs home.
“We were going to be there for as long as it took to iron out the problems.”
That summer, boss Alex Ferguson had brought in three new players: Solskjaer’s current No 2 Mike Phelan, Neil Webb and, at a British-record price of £2.3million, Gary Pallister.
Central defender Pallister would go on to win four Prem titles, the FA Cup three times as well as the Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup.
But at that time he was struggling to deal with his move from Middlesbrough — and he was one who got it in the neck as the drinks began to flow.
Anderson, 63, said: “Pally was sat down between me and Robbo as we talked to him about his form.
“He was saying, ‘I don’t agree, I don’t agree!’ But we were saying to him we didn’t care whether he agreed or not, he was still a young lad, still learning, still finding his feet at United no matter how much he had cost.
“So he was being told in no uncertain terms: this is what’s happening, this is how you deal with it.
“He might not have enjoyed that experience but he wasn’t the only player who got a bit of stick that day.
“But it was a good thing, it showed that the players cared — and I’d very much like to see the current team doing the same thing.”
Yet while Solskjaer’s side are under arguably even more strain ahead of Sunday’s game against leaders Liverpool, ex-England star Anderson is struggling to see where the spark will come from.
He said: “The problem is it doesn’t seem to me like the senior players have what we would do in their thinking.
“The likes of Nemanja Matic . . . he looks like he thinks he’ll be leaving; Ashley Young probably thinks this is his last season at Old Trafford.
“There are not that many players who are going to be there for the long haul to keep the younger ones on their toes.
“The dressing room is really a young dressing room and you can’t see many older heads being around for the next three or four years. And that’s a problem.”
Robson, who has gone to Los Angeles this week to co-host an #ILOVEUNITED fan event for the Liverpool clash, said: “I always thought player meetings were a good idea.
“OK, things are different these days — you won’t see a whole team going to the pub or whatever.
“That doesn’t mean players can’t get together and try to thrash things out, and I notice that the current lads will sometimes go to the races together.
“Back in 1989 things were difficult because we had new players in and it was taking time for the whole team to knit together.
“So I called that meeting and I’d call one at least twice a season, more if I thought it necessary.
“I remember that particular meeting. I remember how we talked — there were no holds barred but everybody knew we were in it for each other.
“Things didn’t get better right away but they did get better and we went on to win the FA Cup that season.
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“After that, as history shows, it was onwards and upwards for Sir Alex and all of us.
“People always point to the manager when things are going wrong but players have a responsibility, too.
“We took that responsibility and I know that’s what Ole would like to see now because, as we showed then, no matter how bad things get they can be turned around.”
This post written by Duncan Wright originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.