LONDON Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson has labelled it a "pathetic excuse" to blame ex-boss Alex Ferguson's presence at matches for the club's current struggles.
After ceding the managerial reins to David Moyes in the close season, Ferguson has taken up a role as a club director and is frequently pictured in the stands watching United.
The sight of Ferguson peering down from the directors' box has divided opinion with some fans comparing Moyes's situation with the one that faced Wilf McGuinness when he replaced Matt Busby in 1969.
"To see Sir Alex at matches shows that he's got great support for the club," Robson, who spent 13 years at United, told Sky Sports.
"For anybody trying to make an excuse and say 'Sir Alex is in the stand watching me play. I'm going to wilt' - well why didn't you wilt when he was manager?
"It's just weak excuses that the media and some ex-players and managers have come out with. It's a pathetic excuse.
"If Sir Alex wasn't going to games and wasn't giving David Moyes support, it would show he doesn't care, is selfish and is getting on with his own life. Instead, it shows he does want to see the club do well."
United have had a torrid start to the season and are seventh in the Premier League. They exited the FA Cup at the start of January and suffered a painful League Cup semi-final penalty shootout defeat to Sunderland on Wednesday.
Ferguson's presence at games has drawn unwanted comparisons with McGuinness's ill-fated spell in charge of the club.
Busby remained "upstairs" at United in the late 1960s in the same way that Ferguson has done today with both witnessing at close quarters their successors' early struggles in the job.
Moyes is not expected to suffer the same fate as McGuinness, who was sacked in 1970 and replaced by his predecessor.
The former Everton manager, who failed to any silverware in his 11 years at the Merseyside club, has frequently maintained that Ferguson, who retired in May after 26 trophy-laden seasons at the club, is a valuable sounding board.
Ferguson said on Friday that United's "great philosophy and history" would mean they always do well and insisted he was enjoying life watching the team as a fan despite the indifferent results since he retired.
"I've been really enjoying it, it's been great," Ferguson told Sky Sports after being named as a coaching ambassador for European governing body UEFA.
"I have the privilege of going to watch the team pretty much when I want. I've been to a few, not all of them, and I can look at it in a different way now. I have my supporters' hat on and my supporters' scarf.
"Instead of being in the dugout suffering with my team I'm suffering with the fans. That's the beauty of football. I'm really enjoying watching the team play."
Robson, who is often pictured sitting alongside Ferguson and another former United great Bobby Charlton, added: "I've been so busy over the last few months that I haven't been in the training ground as much as I'd have liked, but we're just there to support David Moyes.
"It's up to David if he wants to ask any opinions. If not, we're just watching as supporters and we want to see them do really well. I like to chat to the lads and have a bit of banter with them and watch them train."
(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Justin Palmer)