Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson: the grudge that keeps on giving

Former Manchester United manager declines to label player ‘world class’ in book

As a player Roy Keane came to owe Alex Ferguson a lot but there was a time when the Scot would have readily acknowledged  the scale of the repayment made. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

As a player Roy Keane came to owe Alex Ferguson a lot but there was a time when the Scot would have readily acknowledged the scale of the repayment made. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

 

The Roy Keane parody account on Twitter has been quiet of late and whoever is behind it continued to lay low yesterday.

What with the Cork man claiming last week that the Hector Moreno tackle that broke Luke Shaw’s leg was “a great challenge” and now Alex Ferguson omitting his former midfield general from the shortlist of United players during his time who merited the description “world class”, it’s probably best to know when you’re beat.

Keane, in his day, came to owe Ferguson a lot as a player but there was a time when the Scot would have readily acknowledged the scale of the repayment made over 12 years. Keane helped United to seven league titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League during his Old Trafford career, captaining the side to a fair portion of those successes.

But his lingering feud with Ferguson continues to make itself felt whenever either man has a book to sell. For the publishers, it is the grudge that keeps on giving.

Made the difference

In his latest volume, Ferguson lists Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo as the only four “world class” players to have featured for United during his time there. “They made the difference,” he says, “and the evidence is there.”

Second Captains

Keane is not the only one with a right to feel somewhat aggrieved at having been omitted, with Peter Schmeichel, Jaap Stam and Ruud van Nistelrooy amongst obvious other candidates; however, when a selection, that included the Irishman, was put to Ferguson by the BBC, he described them as “great players; fantastic. That was one of the pleasures . . . to work with them. But these players elevated themselves above all that.”

Before their falling out, Ferguson said of his skipper: “If I was putting Roy Keane out there to represent Manchester United on a one against one, we’d win the Derby, the National, the Boat Race and anything else. It’s an incredible thing he’s got.”

Now, he twists the knife by saving his praise for others while, he says, not wishing to “demean or criticise” any of the rest. Ferguson is clever enough to realise that it doesn’t quite work like that.

Ronaldo, not unreasonably, “was just a complete genius of a player”, while Cantona is singled out for “his presence and his ability to make and score goals”, most obviously in his first season at the club when he is credited with having been the “catalyst” required to enable United to win its first league title in 26 years.

“The younger breed,” he continues, “like Ryan and Scholes were just fantastic players and the thing about those two was longevity.”

Keane’s physical game meant he was never going to be capable of playing at the top level until he was 40. In his earlier book, Ferguson was scathing of the player’s inability to accept that the game was almost up at 34. He thought he was “Peter Pan”, said the Scot with contempt.

There are other interesting stories and insights, not all of which reflect as positively on the now club director as he presumably thinks.

His failure to keep Paul Pogba at the club is blamed on an agent who rubbed him up the wrong way, while he makes clear that David Moyes, once billed as his choice to succeed him, was only hired after Pep Guardiola had not followed up on a vague and open ended approach.

Doubled his wages

Then there is the revelation that the Glazers doubled his wages in 2010 when he reacted badly to Wayne Rooney’s new £250,000 a week contract and suggested that no player at the club should earn more than him.

Keane will like that, no doubt, and might well be planning a third volume of his own memoirs just to get his retaliation in. Perhaps he could exclude Ferguson from a list of the best managers he ever worked with.

Or perhaps, he could learn a lesson from the Twitter account that bears his name, realise that this stuff is really getting hard to parody at this stage.

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