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Steve Bruce’s stint as Manchester United captain during the 1990s saw him go head-to-head with the best strikers in world football.

The growing popularity of the newly-formed Premier League was spearheaded by Sir Alex Ferguson’s serial winners as they fought tooth and nail to close in on Liverpool’s 18-League title haul.

I played against Alan Shearer and Ian Wright as Man United captain but World Cup winner was the best I’ve ever faced

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Bruce went down in history as a United legendCredit: Getty

Bruce was at the heart of United’s ascent that saw the Red Devils land four of the first five Premier League titles following its inception in 1992.

With that, came tussles against the best strikers English football had to offer as United became the measuring stick for the remaining 19 clubs to emulate.

Despite United’s dominance, Bruce was regularly put through his paces by stars such as Alan Shearer and Ian Wright but more often than not, a gulf in overall quality saw Bruce and co come out on top.

However, the Champions League was the stage that tested Bruce and his teammates more than any other.

United hadn’t won the competition since 1968 and it was there that the ex-United captain came up against the player he regards as the best he’s ever faced.

“The Brazilian Romario for Barcelona,” Bruce told talkSPORT when asked who his toughest-ever opponent was,

“Wow, he was incredible,” he added. “It’s sometimes difficult to pick out one individual because Rush and Dalglish back in the day – how good were those two?

“If I had to pick one, then Romario would probably be the one.”

Bruce skippered United on what turned out to be a forgettable night at the Nou Camp

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Bruce skippered United on what turned out to be a forgettable night at the Nou CampCredit: Getty
But Bruce will never forget playing against Romario

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But Bruce will never forget playing against RomarioCredit: Getty

Bruce lined up against the Brazil legend in the Champions League group stages in 1994 and it was certainly a night to forget for Ferguson’s side.

“He gave me the absolute runaround in the Nou Camp when we lost 4-0,” said Bruce. “It could have been 12-0 if I’m brutally honest. He was a fabulous footballer.”

Steve Bruce reveals former Birmingham City cult hero was the best player he has ever managed

Romario scored on the night adding to a double from strike partner Hristo Stoichkov before former Chelsea defender Albert Ferrer added a fourth goal two-minutes from time.

The Brazil legend, who won the World Cup in 1994, remains the ninth-highest goalscorer in the history of football with 784 goals in 1002 official games.

Domestic bliss was struggling to transcend onto the European scene as United were dumped out at the group stages with Swedish side IFK Gothenburg topping the standings ahead of the Catalan giants.

United’s travel sickness on the continent was hindered by a five-year European ban imposed on English clubs following the Heysel tragedy in 1985.

English clubs were reinstated shortly after the 1990 World Cup but it took another nine years before the Red Devils were able to reach the holy grail.

Sadly, it came too late for Bruce who announced his retirement from football that season as a Sheffield United player.



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