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Old 28th November 2010, 07:12   #1
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Default United Captains - Roy Keane

United Captains – Roy Keane 1997- 2005
Football fans all over the world talk about many things during the passage of their conversations; the state of the game itself as it relates to fans; the immediate predicament of the club which they support; the state of their country’s national team; in fact a myriad of topics relating to the game of football. However, if one wanted to provoke immediate argument, there can be no doubt that by asking the question; ‘What do you think of Roy Keane?’ one would have to take a step back, and then watch as it would bring about an immediate, and voluble response, even though his actual playing career finished some three, or more years ago. Keane has been called many things, and many would apply the term ‘flawed genius’ to him because although there was never any doubting his immense genius, and his wonderful ability to play the game, there was certainly a temperamental brittleness about him which led him into so many scrapes both on, and off, the field.

Roy Maurice Keane was born at 88 Ballinderry Park, to Maurice (Mossie), and Marie Keane, in the north suburb of Mayfield, Cork, Eire, on August 10th, 1971. His family was from a working class background, and they could never have envisaged, on the day that he was born, just what a prolific sporting career their small son would have in the years to come. Certainly, it would not have crossed their minds at that time, that they were bringing into the world not only one of the greatest players ever to grace the game of football, but also one of the most controversial as well.

The family was very sports conscious and as well as a love, and a value for football, they also had a love of boxing - a sport that the young Roy Keane was to briefly flirt with, winning his only four novice fights by knockout, when representing Dillon’s Juniors in the Irish Novice Boxing League. Roy also tried GAA but that did not last too long. As a young boy, and also well into his teens, he was in appearance, only small. But as he showed throughout his professional career, even then, he had a will, determination, and resilience about him, that would see him eventually succeed. His first introduction into organized sport came when at the tender age of just 9 years he followed the family tradition and joined Rockmount AFC’s Academy. It was an association that would last some ten years.
While still a young boy, Roy’s character could be described as “fiery” and there were also the first signs of him being somewhat of a leader and a natural, ruthless competitor. His skill and determination saw him voted as player of the year when in his very first season at Rockmount, which ended with him playing for the Academy’s Under 11’s team – two years ahead of his time. He wasn’t frightened of a reputation, or any of the older players, and they did not faze him in any way at all. Speaking to a reporter in later years about those early days at Rockmount, and of him eyeballing other players, he was to say;

“I have done it since I was eight or nine. I did it at Rockmount. I fell out with people when I was 10, 11. People who didn't train properly.
"I fell out with a good friend of mine, when we were kids, because he wouldn't go training one night, and wanted to go out on his skateboard. Didn't speak for years."

Keane recalls Rockmount AFC as a "relatively modest experience that was to shape my life."

His team manager at Rockmount, Timmy Murphy, nicknamed him the ‘Boiler Man’ – ‘the fiery one who mans the furnace, who gets things heated up, and keeps it that way.’ Talking to Murphy about Keane, brings a mist to his eyes as he recalled those days long ago, in an interview with The Times in the autumn of 2006.

Ah Roy’ said Murphy, ‘Roy Keane.’

Murphy saw Keane develop at Rockmount, and they were kings in junior football. He was both his manager and his mentor. The English and Scottish club scouts came from over the Irish Sea, contracts in one hand, and dreams in the other. But it was never Keane who they were after. As he developed, Roy was still small, gritty, and some would say that he wasn’t too gifted. But when you patrolled the touch-lines as Murphy did week-in, and week-out, for every game, for every training session, you knew, you just knew.
‘Even then, when Roy was just 11 years old, he was the leader.’

Murphy pulled out a photograph. “See this? First trophy Roy Keane ever won in football.” Rockmount U11s, seven boys sitting, seven standing; their statuettes lined up in front of them. Keane is the smallest – but the look on his face is unremittingly hard. The statuette could have been a dead fish by his feet.

What made him like that? He comes from a country once described by the businessman and former rugby player Tony O’Reilly as being dogged by an “it’ll do” mentality. Sure, it’s not great, but it’ll do.” Keane came from a part of Cork City where boys learnt to look after themselves in the early hours of Sunday morning: a world where you dreamt for a while, and then got battered by reality.

Roy Keane progressed through the Rockmount teams and upon reaching the ages of 14-15 he started to apply for trials with some of the English league clubs. Tim Murphy, and Gene O’Sullivan, wrote the letters for him. Chelsea, Brighton, Aston Villa, Luton Town, and Sheffield Wednesday, have all lived to regret the replies of “thanks, but no thanks”. The rejections disappointed Keane, and also angered him. However, they fuelled the burning desire inside of him, desire which drove his will incessantly to succeed.

Eddie O’Rourke from Cobh Ramblers eventually persuaded Keane to join them, and part of the deal that enabled him to secure his services was the fact that Keane wanted to go on an FAI Academy scheme. Each Irish Premier team was allowed to nominate only one youngster to attend the two year course. Keane had actually signed for Cork City when O’Rourke had talked to him about joining Cobh. It is still somewhat of a mystery as to how Cobh’s forms arrived at the League’s headquarters before Cork’s did but it is a good job that they did, because if they hadn’t, Keane would never have had a place on that FAI Academy course. Cork City had already nominated their youngster and that was a young man named Len Downey.

Even in Dublin, the people running the course, and the many scouts who turned up at games, doubted that Keane could make it at top class level, mainly because of his size. Keane relished the work and the environment at the academy, although it was not without its pitfalls.

Liam McMahon who was Cobh’s manager at the time recalled Keane's school studies were not exactly up to scratch. He said:
“We got a call that Roy was not doing a great deal at school. My assistant Fergus McDaid was a teacher in Cork so I asked him to have a word with the lad because the Committee were getting concerned. Fraser asked how his studies were going and Roy just said: 'I am going to be a professional footballer'. And that was the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned."

It did not surprise Eddie O’Rourke, and eventually, even McMahon was convinced of the young terrier’s ability.

"He would pass the ball like a golfer taps away a five-foot putt," says O'Rourke. "Turn, pass, turn, pass. It was methodical, and simple, and brilliant for his age. He was box to box, running, scoring, passing, wonderful to watch. Liam played him one day in Dublin and rang me afterwards. 'He's after tearing them apart,' he said. 'I told ya, I said'."

McMahon could see the youngster had talent and potential. But it was Keane's attitude which convinced McMahon that he would gain success over the Irish Sea.

'We were playing up in Donegal against Finn Harps, which is a good six-hour bus journey at the best of times,' explained McMahon. 'Eddie wanted Roy to play in a very important youth game in Cobh the night before and then the plan was for him to drive up to join the first team afterwards. We hit the midlands, were engulfed in heavy snow, and I remember thinking: 'That's the end of Roy's chances'. He added; 'The players were long gone to bed, it was about half-one in the morning, and let's just say I was in the vicinity of the bar when the door to the hotel opened, and in walked Roy. He just asked where his room was and went straight to bed."

Len Downey recalled how driven Keane was, even when he was at the Academy in Dublin;

“He would never have a go if you missed a goal but he would tear into anyone for missing a tackle or not tracking back, and he was forever having a go at me because I could be a bit lazy about that part of the game.

"Players were afraid of him, even those who were much older. Even though he was so small and slim, he'd have no hesitation telling the bigger lads what to do, and what he thought of them. He actually stood out because he was so small but he tackled players twice his size, won the ball, sent them flying. He was tiny when he got in the Ireland youth squad and people told him to his face he was not going to make it because of his size. That just made him more determined to prove them wrong.”

Whilst he was at the Academy, Noel McCabe was an Irish football scout for Nottingham Forest, and he used to travel all over Dublin on his bicycle to watch junior games. He was forever hoping that one day he would find the raw golden nugget of a young player, one that he could recommend to Brian Clough. McCabe watched Keane for months and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The game that finally clinched it for him was an FAI Youth Cup quarter final replay at Fairview Park in North Dublin where the Cobh youth team were playing Belvedere. Eddie O’Rourke smiled as he remembered;

"Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong," said O'Rourke. "The bus was late, we were late togging off. We were mangled by Belvedere but Roy was head and shoulders above anyone on the pitch and destroyed them - despite the fact we lost 4-0. He was like a man possessed, even after they scored the fourth and the game was over he was still running all over the pitch, urging, bollocking, driving.”

McCabe was the only scout to witness what O'Rourke had been seeing for months - that Keane was a natural-born footballer. He pinched himself when he arrived at the hotel where the defeated team was drowning their sorrows with orange juice. No other scout had bothered. O'Rourke recalled;

"There was every kind of scout there that day, including Boy Scouts. I will always wonder what the others were watching."

Defeat was rare for the Cobh boys, who won four cups during Keane's last season, but McCabe arrived to offer a lifeline to the 18-year-old who had dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. O'Rourke, and his brother John, told Keane of Forest's interest, but the youngster, then facing the prospect of the dole queue, and afternoons watching Neighbours, just shrugged it off.

"He was sick of hearing that players were going over for trials," explained O'Rourke. "I don't think he really believed it was going to happen until he stepped on the plane after signing for Forest."

Much has been made of Cobh Ramblers' failure to secure a sell-on clause when Keane signed for Forest 17 years ago. Cobh were paid £47,000 in all, receiving an initial £20,000, then £10,000 for his first 10 games, the same amount for the next 10 and £7,000 for five Ireland appearances. They also played a friendly with Forest at St Colman's Park, with Keane scoring in a 5-0 win after marking his first full season with a debut at Anfield, and winning an FA Cup runners-up medal.

Many would suggest that a sell-on clause from the then British record £3.75million deal which clinched Keane's signature for Manchester United in 1993, might have set the club up for life.

"You know what? I still wouldn't have a sell-on clause," said O'Rourke. "When I signed any player, there was no way I was going to put money for the club before their future and stand in their way. Ronnie Fenton did the negotiating, and Mr Clough came in halfway through. He gave my brother John a kiss and said: 'What are you going to do with the money?' He couldn't believe we were all working men who were going to give every penny to the club. He took a bottle of Paddy's out, poured everyone a glass and said: 'Give them what they want'.

"Mr Clough would have turned round and said 'no' if we had asked for that kind of deal. How could you tell a young fella like Roy his dream was over because we wanted more cash in the future? No way. At the end of the day, he put this club on the map and we have had plenty of return since."

So young Roy’s dream of joining a top English club was, at last, finally realised and he wasn’t yet quite 20 years of age. Delighted with his move, Roy found life away from home more than a little difficult, and would regularly look for a few days off to visit his family. There was seldom a difficulty meeting this request from Clough. Clough was both brilliant, and perceptive, when it came to handling his players. It is probable that in Keane, Clough also saw the same qualities of the player, and the leader, as had Murphy, O’Sullivan. O’Rourke, McMahon, and McCabe during Keane’s younger years. Cloughie was to affectionally call Keane “the Irishman”

Initially, Roy was the quiet, withdrawn type of young man at Forest, but as he became an established first team player, the other side of his personality came to the fore. His performances on the field were eye-catching, and soon he had displaced England international Steve Hodge. Back then Keane would leave Nottingham for Cork directly after Saturday's game, arriving there in time 'for last orders’ at the Temple Acre, then a meal with his mates. Saturday was dancing, drinking, kebabs... Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, same routine. That cavalier lifestyle seems scarcely credible now in a game directed by nutritionists and motivation coaches as well as trainers and physios.

'I know,' he says, shaking his head at the absurdity of that not-too-distant time, 'but that was the norm back then. We used to get wrecked.' Given that Cork can be a hard town, did he ever consider the very real possibility that one drunken ruck could have put him out of action for the season? 'Oh, I know. Without a doubt. In town, there'd always be one or two fellas looking for trouble, but I'd always have my four or five mates and we'd be ready.'

So, you would be up for a fight if it happened?

'Oh aye. The amount of fights I've had in Cork that I haven't even mentioned. That,' he says laughing, 'would probably be another book. I mean, people go on about my problems off the field, but they don't even know the half of it. My uncles used to say to me, "Why don't you go and have a drink in a hotel - Jury's, or the Metropole, nice hotels like that?" But, I would say, "No. No. I don't want to drink in a hotel. I don't want to sit in a hotel with the shirts and ties when I'm 20. I'd rather take me chances in the bars in Cork".'

For a moment, he seems quite proud of his youthful ability to court trouble but stay one step ahead of it. Then, almost wistfully, he added:

'See, back then, when I went home, it was like I was never away, you know? In a way, the fight at the end of the night was the price I was prepared to pay to go home, go out with my mates and let off a bit of steam. That kind of stuff didn't make the papers until I started getting bigger. I wouldn't dream of doing it now, but it was great then. I found it very difficult to cope with the kind of fame that accompanied my status as a footballer. I wanted to be alone. Well, not as alone as I found myself during the early months in Manchester... Stupidity and pride meant that I would never dream of making the first move to initiate a friendship. Yeah, yeah. I had to be honest about that. When I first used to live in Nottingham, I was my own worst enemy. My pride stopped me saying, "I wouldn't mind going for a meal with one of yous".'

The drinking in Nottingham was almost certainly borne on the back of loneliness, boredom, and being away from home. It did become problematic. At the end of his first season as an established player, Keane played in the FA Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur, and finished on the losing side. He had appeased Clough by agreeing to play even though he was carrying a bad ankle injury. He went on the lash for six weeks and when he reported back at the City ground for pre-season training, he was well over a stone overweight, and Clough was far from happy.

The 1991/92 season saw back at Wembley again, and again, he was on the losing team – this time against Manchester United. By now, he was becoming one of the hottest properties in the game, and in the autumn of 1992, he negotiated another contract with Forest. It was hard bargaining and Clough was not happy at all as he believed that Keane was holding the club to ransom by demanding what he thought to be an extortionate wage increase. There was compromise on both sides, and the new contract did get signed, but with an insertion clause that stipulated that in the event of Forest being relegated, he could demand a move.

Clough also had his own problems at this time, the main one being that he was battling alcoholism. Several key players from what had been a very good Forest team had already left the club, and as the season progressed, Forest were in deep relegation trouble. Just before the season ended, and after a 2-0 defeat by Sheffield United which doomed them to relegation, Clough announced his retirement after 18 years at the City ground. Ex-Forest favourite Frank Clark stepped into his shoes. The relegation though, had opened the door for Roy Keane’s departure from Forest.

Kenny Dalglish had been installed as Blackburn Rovers’ new manager, and was assembling a formidable team with the help of steel magnate, Jack Walker’s millions. There is no doubt that Dalglish, on behalf of Rovers, had been in contact with Keane earlier on during that season, and once Forest’s relegation had been confirmed, a 4 million pounds deal was agreed between the two clubs. Keane shook hands on the deal with Dalglish, but as it was late on a Friday, they could not get all the forms processed so the agreement was that this would be done the following Monday. However, when the story broke in the Saturday dailys, Alex Ferguson saw it. He immediately got in touch with Keane and from that moment on as Keane was to say in later years;

“Once I knew of United’s interest, there was only one place that I was going to go to – and that was Old Trafford.”

Dalglish was furious, and even Brian Clough entered the fray saying that Keane had been “tapped up” by Ferguson, but he conveniently forgot all about Blackburn’s illegal approaches.

So Roy Keane joined Manchester United in August 1993, a little over three years after leaving Cobh Ramblers. His arrival at Old Trafford meant that he had moved into a dressing room full of strong characters - Bryan Robson (who had been a boyhood hero of Keane’s) was Club Captain, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Peter Schmeichel. The drinking culture was still in evidence at Old Trafford, despite Ferguson’s attempts to put an end to it, and Roy embraced it totally – in fact he flew headlong into it! At the same time along came all the troubles associated with it.

For all his undoubted ability on the field, Keane could be shy and introverted off it. When he first arrived in Manchester he was socially awkward. Being single, he also had a lot of time upon his hands. It was time which he found hard to fill in a meaningful way.

“Back then, I'd be out with the lads and I'd feel part of it all for a while, and then other times, I'd feel like I was somehow a bit different, but not in a nasty way. Removed. I'd be out in the afternoon because I'd need a few drinks to relax before I met up with the lads at five. Which is crazy. Lads I played with every day, trained with every day, and I'd be "I'm meeting the lads tonight, I'd better have a few before I meet them.” Madness. It was a vicious circle for me. I'd keep to myself, then I'd meet the lads and I'd be ready for a bit of action. I kind of go berserk, if you know what I mean. The trouble might come, and I'd be full of remorse, feeling bad. It'd be, "Oh Jesus, I'm not going out ever again". And then I'd keep to myself for weeks.”

On the field though his performances were terrific and in the first season at Old Trafford, United won the “double” – Premiership and FA Cup. Steve Bruce had taken over the captaincy, and Keane was taking note all the time. The “double” was won again in 1996, and title retained in 1997. At the end of 1996 Bruce moved on to Middlesborough, and Eric Cantona became Club Captain.

Keane has his own views on Cantona and was to say this, in an interview with The Times in 2006;

I’ve never believed one individual can have that much influence on a team. People used to say this about Eric Cantona, but I didn’t get sucked into that. Eric was a major influence at the club, but I saw him as the final piece in the jigsaw. He wouldn’t have worked if the other pieces weren’t in place”

As a player, Keane had matured and was probably the most prolific midfield player in Europe. At the end of 1996/97 season, Cantona surprisingly announced his retirement, and Ferguson had no hesitation in naming Keane as his successor as Club Captain. It was his time. However it did not get off to the best of starts because on September 21 1997, he was involved in an incident at Leeds United with the Norwegian defender Alfe-Inge Haaland. The end result was that Keane ruptured his cruciate ligament in a tackle, an injury that would keep him out of the game for almost a year. It was an incident which he would not forget.

The long lay-off caused by his cruciate injury was a bleak time for a man whose life, as he suddenly realised, was defined to an extraordinary degree by those regular 90-minute bouts of combat out on the pitch. He admits to feeling lost, and frustrated, without the purpose and the adrenalin of football. His drinking escalated. He had a row with a barman at a United reserve team party; another with his manager after he was subsequently banned from attending the first team party. His response was to go out on a drinking spree on his own.

'The injury,' he said, 'was an eye opener. It was a big blow for me. I was only 27, 28. I'm not saying I ever took things for granted, but I had started to relax a little, and enjoy things. I was thinking, this is what it's all about, then, suddenly it seemed like it might all be over.'

Was it that serious?

'Oh yeah. Especially the way I was carrying on. I was out on the piss every night.'

On crutches?

'Oh yeah,' he laughed. 'Ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. I was doing a lot of stuff I shouldn't have been doing - not just dancing but daft stuff like jumping over hedges and cars. I'd sometimes come in the next day and I couldn't move for my knee.'

On April 29, 1999, Keane gave arguably the greatest ever performance by a captain in United’s long and illustrious history. In no big an arena than Turin’s Stadio Del Alpi, against the might of Juventus, in the second leg of a European Champions League semi-final second leg – he single handedly dragged Manchester United back from the brink of an embarrassing defeat, to ensure their place in a European Cup Final for the first time in 31 years. Level at 1-1 from the first leg in Manchester, United conceded two soft goals within the first 12 minutes of the game. But Keane drove his team on, urging them, bollocking them, cajoling them to greater effort. And it was he who dragged them back into the game scoring with a delightful header from a corner kick. It breathed fresh energy and impetus into the team, and they responded to Keane’s performance. Sadly, he was to receive a yellow card during the game which prevented him playing in the Final. However, there is no doubt that Keane was the inspiration that drove them to that European Final.

Keane says his binge drinking came to an end in 1999 when he spent a night in the cells after another brawl in a city centre club. The incident had all the trademarks of a tabloid set-up - it actually made the Sun the following morning - but it meant that Alex Ferguson was summoned to a Manchester police station in the early hours, just four days before the FA Cup Final, and ten days before the European Cup Final.

'There was a pattern here, the story of me, drink and cities: Cork, Dublin, Nottingham, Manchester. It adds up to aggravation.'

Was that night in the cells the turning point?

'Maybe, yeah. It was obviously getting me in trouble. I mean, without drink, that whole thing would not have gone beyond first base. I wouldn't have been there to begin with. Or, I would have walked away. It really pissed me off, the gaffer having to come and get me, and all. That was a long night, that was a hell of a long night.'

Did Ferguson give him a bollocking?

'Not that time. He could see that I was angry with myself. Not looking for sympathy or anything, but genuinely disgusted with myself. He just asked if I was okay. His reading of the situation is always spot on.'

After the European Champions league win over Bayern Munich in Barcelona on that balmy night in May 1999, there was a sense of déjà-vu. Geroge Best had recalled years earlier that after the win at Wembley, against Benfica, in May 1968, several players were heard to be saying that there was nothing else to win – that they had done it all. In Barcelona, Keane, as he sat in his suit back in the dressing room, was hearing similar things. The player who had innocently said on the night of the victory that he didn’t care if they never won another match foretold the stagnation that would follow.

And that evening in Barcelona, Keane was still the 12-year-old with the dead fish. “The good teams come back and win this trophy again and again,” he said, at the Nou Camp stadium. “That’s what we’ve got to do.” Just as success chipped away at the resolve of teammates, it was repeated failure in the European Cup that did for Keane You ask him about this and it is like Hamlet, alone in a room.

“People look back on my career and think the injuries and leaving the Ireland team at the World Cup were the disappointments. None of that stuff comes into it. The biggest disappointments were the games we lost in Europe.”

“The years when we just got sucked into the bull, ‘the final is in Glasgow this season, the manager’s home city,’ as if that entitled us to a break. ‘The final’s at Old Trafford this season, made for us.’ People got sucked into that.

“Even that night in Barcelona, it was a great night in the history of the club, and it will be hard to beat it, but you knew some people had reached their height. It’s human nature. I was frustrated by this. I wanted to get back there again, because as much as I thought we were a good team, until you get to a second or third final, you don’t confirm it. It disappoints me that I didn’t win the World Cup. People say ‘but Roy, you played for Ireland, you were never going to win the World Cup’. I never saw it like that.”

That was typical of the Roy Keane who developed into one of the finest Captains in Manchester United’s proud history. Ferguson was to say that Keane was, without doubt, the most influential player that the club has seen. He was the leader, the driver, the one who led by example, and the one who would not take anything less than the 100% which he demanded from every team mate. He was to win another three Premier league titles with United plus an FA Cup before he was to depart the club in 2006, something that took everybody by surprise.

What brought about the end of his 12 years at Old Trafford. Maybe the fact that he cared too much. Maybe it was the fact that the “it’ll do” mentality would never “do” for Roy Keane. There was a 4-1 defeat away to Middlesborough that started it – a game in which he didn’t even play in, nor attend. But it was the manner in which United had lost that hurt him most. The following Monday he appeared as an analyst of the game on MUTV and he was very critical of the players. The club opted not to show the broadcast, but somebody leaked an inaccurate account of it, and on the Tuesday morning that account was splashed all over the tabloids. It portrayed United as a club in turmoil.

“I took that defeat personal, then there was the video that was leaked and everything snowballed. That defeat still hurts me; not that we got beaten 4-1, but the way we got beaten. I didn’t even bloody play, which was even more frustrating, because part of me is saying, ‘Roy, stay out of it, it’s not your business,’ but I’m a player in that dressing room, and this affected the dressing room.

“I was seeing players doing stuff off the pitch, had the feeling it was affecting them, and it came to a head with that defeat. That feeling, I’ll take it to the grave. And yes, I nailed certain people. This was a match I watched in a pub in Dubai. I had a foot injury. The club had told me to take a break. I walked out of that pub at 3-1, I couldn’t take any more. I took the publicity with a pinch of salt, senior figures at the club should have done the same. Everyone got sucked into it, when they should have known better. I think, in the end, the manager was swayed by certain people he works with.”

How did he feel? Anger, sadness, resignation?

“It had been coming. There were no tears. None. It was done. It’s the people around you that get upset. Family members, wife, parents. They care about you, so they worry. For me, it was mostly acceptance. It had been coming and then it happened. It was the right thing for United, maybe not the right thing for Roy Keane, maybe not for Alex Ferguson, but for the club. I always said, when the day came, I’d be ready. Locker cleaned out the evening before: I was ready.”

But did the end have to be that painful?

“I think so,” he said. “I cared too much. If things weren’t going well, if new signings weren’t working out, if the reserves were having a bad time, if the youth team wasn’t doing well, I was taking it all on board. That’s what I am. I can’t be flippant about these things. This is who I am, like it or lump it. It doesn’t mean I’m not a nice person.”

A number of people at Old Trafford believe that at a difficult meeting involving players and coaches following the public airing of Keane’s criticism of some teammates, there was some sharp swordplay between the then skipper and assistant coach, Carlos Queiroz. The coach accused Keane of disloyalty, a brave accusation at the best of times. To use an expression he likes, he then nailed Queiroz by reminding him it was he who ran off to coach Real Madrid and only came back to United when things didn’t work out in Spain. The feeling is that Queiroz went to Ferguson and made it “him or me”. Since Keane’s time was almost up, it was him.

Not long after his exit, Keane went back to United’s training ground to return his company car.

“The players gave me a lot of respect. I said goodbye and there were no hard feelings.
United wanted me to have my testimonial, and showed their class as a club in the way they did everything for me. That brought closure. By the end of my time, a lot of the players didn’t like me. I’m convinced of that. Possibly they wouldn’t admit it, but there’s no doubt in my mind, the players had just had enough of me; they were just ready for a change. Ready for a different voice in the changing room. I was losing that influence.”

“I was fortunate to play for United. I enjoyed all my days there, had a good time, met some bloody good people, good characters, good men. I go back to the fellows that were there when I arrived: Robbo [Bryan Robson], Brucie [Steve Bruce], Sparky [Mark Hughes], Andre [Kanchelskis], Incey [Paul Ince], Giggsy My first few years at United were very sociable. We’d agree to meet in Mulligans bar and 10 or 12 lads would show up. You were the exception if you didn’t, now you’re the exception if you do. The game has changed that much.”

And so he was gone. His going is a void that Manchester United has never, ever, since filled. If ever they find another midfield general who has half the skill, tenacity, courage, determination, and who has anywhere near the indomitable, and indefatigable spirit, and will, that Roy Keane had, then they will be a very lucky outfit that’s for sure.
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