Alex Ferguson claims Roy Keane ‘overstepped the mark’

Former United boss scathing in his criticism of the former United captain

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson in happier times.

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson in happier times.


The first cracks in Alex Ferguson’s relationship with Roy Keane occurred when the player made what the manager felt were unreasonable objections to the standard of things at a warm weather training camp, the former Manchester United manager reveals in his book, My Autobiography.

The echoes of Saipan are clear – there was even a barbecue – and Mick McCarthy might be forgiven for taking some small amount of satisfaction from the now 71-year-old’s astonishment at his captain’s reaction to a facility he himself believed was “out of this world”.

In the end, of course, McCarthy’s clash with Keane contributed hugely to the end of his time in charge of the Republic of Ireland team just over a decade ago, whereas Ferguson’s confidence that he was powerful enough to see off and survive the departure of his long-time lieutenant is abundantly clear as he tells his side of the story.

Asked yesterday at the press conference held to mark the official launch of the book whether he expected a reaction to his account of events now, he said: “With the nature of the man I think you can expect that, that’s the sort of personality that he is.” He did not, however, sound in the least bit concerned.

The 16-page chapter dealing with the Corkman is a remarkable read, with the former Manchester United boss delivering a damning verdict on the behaviour of a man he believes was struggling to come to grips with the decline in his powers on the pitch, and it is harder than ever to imagine that the pair could ever be reconciled after it hits the streets tomorrow.

Going to end badly
Ferguson initially praises Keane for helping to take the pressure off him at United by keeping other players in his squad on their toes but says the midfielder, struggling with the fact that injuries had rendered him incapable of living up to his own tremendously high standards of play at times, eventually began to act as though he actually was the manager. At that stage, it is clear, things were only going to end badly.

There are some slight inconsistencies in the version of events, with Ferguson making it clear at one point that Keane would take issue with anyone and everyone if he was in the mood, citing the example of the day he walked into the dressing room to find the Corkman and Ruud van Nistelrooy fighting, with other players struggling to separate them.

In the wake of the infamous November 2005 MUTV interview, in which Keane criticised many of his team-mates for their performances in a defeat by Middlesbrough, as well as for their wider attitudes, Ferguson all but accuses the now 42-year-old of cowardice, suggesting: “He wouldn’t have aimed that accusation at Wayne Rooney, who wouldn’t have stood for it. The senior players would sort him out. Fletcher and O’Shea were the two he picked on.”

As for the interview itself, Ferguson observes: “Jesus, it was unbelievable. He slaughtered everyone. Darren Fletcher got it. Alan Smith. Van der Sar. Roy was taking them all down.”

He says that after being told that the interview could not be broadcast, Keane suggested that the players be shown it and then asked to decide on whether it was problematic. When this happened and Van der Sar suggested he was out of line, the Irishman reacted badly, with matters only getting worse when van Nistelrooy weighed in behind his fellow Dutch international.

‘It was frightening’
“What I noticed about him that day as I was arguing with him,” claims Ferguson, “ was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I’m from Glasgow.”

Ferguson says that the meeting broke up with players walking out as Keane shifted his attention back to the manager, criticising him for his role in the Rock Of Gibraltar affair, something that is mentioned only in passing over the course of the book’s 350 or so pages. The reason for this, said Ferguson yesterday, is “straightforward . . . I did agree with John Magnier that once the settlement had been made nothing was to be said about it again”.

Asked about his decision to be so blunt about Keane, Ferguson said he wanted to explain events he felt were sparked by the fact that “Roy overstepped the mark; he absolutely overstepped the mark”.

In general, Ferguson recalls, Keane’s enormously changeable moods tended to dictate the entire atmosphere around the dressing room, and the physios, he says, used to ask first thing each morning what sort of form the player was in on the basis that it would essentially characterise their day.

The Scot suggests that they almost made up when Keane called in to see him one day and, he claims, apologised for his behaviour, but that comments he subsequently made in the media ended any prospect of a reconciliation.

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