Keane has what it takes to be a top boss -- Solskjaer
SECONDS after the words came out of his mouth, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realised his mistake and smiled.
In mid flow, talking about his friend Roy Keane, the Norwegian started a sentence about their time at Manchester United together with the words: "When you play for him ... " before realising that, he was using lingo that you would associate with a manager rather than a former team-mate.
"Well, I felt I played for him when he was captain," explains the 1999 Champions League winning hero, "He was an inspiring, motivating figure and a leader of the group."
It is for those reasons that Solskjaer (below) remains convinced that the Corkman will succeed in management, and will one day return to the top table instead of spending the rest of his career in the dugout away from the Premier League.
There are a lot of people in football who claim to be friends with the Ipswich manager, but Solskjaer can genuinely make that statement. He still speaks to Keane regularly, and praises a character that he says is far removed from the caricature.
When he hears that the Tractor Boys supremo has fallen out with a player -- a common enough occurrence -- he draws the conclusion that the individual in question simply wasn't working hard enough. In his book, that's the simple way of getting onside with the 39-year-old.
"If I was a young player, I'd want to work under Roy Keane," says Solskjaer. "Roy and I are close friends. He's a top human being.
"You know that picture people have of Roy as a ranter and a raver? Well, all he ever asks is 100pc commitment. If you give that, you're one of Roy's favourites.
"I think he made a good move going to Ipswich, where he can work more on the quiet. If you go straight into a big club, the Premier League, it can be difficult.
"I remember talking to Roy and saying to him, 'you're going to be the number two at United' and he didn't want to be a number two. He wanted to learn by making his own mistakes."
His critics would argue that he's made a few too many mistakes already at Sunderland and in his early steps with Ipswich, but Solskjaer dismisses such talk out of hand.
There's no doubt in his mind that Keane will eventually graduate to the upper echelons of the game, feeling that a period in relative obscurity by his standards will stand to him.
"Roy's very humble," he continues, "He knows he's not the finished article and may not be as a manager until 10 years from now. I'm not here to pick the managers of Manchester United, but I know he's got the mentality of being at a top club, yes.
"But no matter where Roy manages, Ipswich, Sunderland, Manchester United, Juventus, AC Milan, he won't have the same quality (to work with) as Roy Keane, the player had.
"If I had to pick one player from the players I played with, and I was the manager, Roy would be the one. Of course, you'd want Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo, Eric Cantona but if I had to pick one, it would be Roy."
Of course, Solskjaer has his own ambitions in management. For now, he's content with his role in charge of the Manchester United reserves, and he's in Ireland this week for the Platinum One challenge -- a joust with Arsenal's reserves at Tallaght Stadium this evening is next on the agenda.
He'd intended to go back to Norway at his wife's request when persistent knee injuries forced his retirement from the game. Until he told Alex Ferguson the news, that is. Within 20 seconds, he was offered a role coaching the forwards at the club. "The gaffer won again," he laughs, "but he gave me a couple of weeks off. And I'm still with my wife -- we even had a kid after that."
From there, he progressed to take charge of the second string, and is in a good position to speak about the emerging talent at the club. Ireland's Darron Gibson has progressed into the first-team picture full-time now, and is highly rated by everyone behind the scenes.
"A pleasure to work with," he says. "He's got a good attitude and is a great talent and he's got a kid -- a baby now as well -- and maybe that changes your focus as well."
Of those who will figure this evening, Tom Cleverly is one that really excites and he feels that the all-rounder has a huge future ahead of him. Dubliner Robert Brady, who broke into the reserves at 16, before spending most of last season battling with injury, is another on the radar.
"If we can get him super fit, he will be a very, very good player," he muses, "If he keeps fit and catches the manager's eye, he could be in the Carling Cup squad.
"He's Irish, so he's a very good competitor," he adds. Just like you know who.