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Always the bitter word


 Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson.

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson.

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson.

FOR those who like their fillet rare with blood oozing onto the plate, Alex Ferguson has served up a prime cut in his autobiography and the main course is Roy Keane.

To call this a filleting is not to do it justice. Ferguson has sliced and diced the Corkman and it is no surprise that Keane is apparently talking to his lawyers.

But even if Keane should be horrified by the picture painted of a hollowed out and ageing prize-fighter, unable to punch with his usual ferocity but still raging against the world, he should also realise that Ferguson has unwittingly highlighted some of his own weaknesses by offering such a bitter and lop-sided view of their relationship.

Ferguson doffs his cap very briefly to Keane's impact on Manchester United but in an entire chapter devoted to the man who brought him more success than anyone else, he focuses firmly on Keane the Destroyer.

The most damning assessment Ferguson offers of Keane is when he tags the man who was the bedrock of Manchester United for ten years with the kind of toxic personality which can bring silence to a room or bully people into submission.

Ferguson need not look very far to find a similar profile but in this case, he's firing the bullets and he was never going to turn the gun on himself.

He accepts that Keane was his dressing room general and that he was able to relax about discipline and motivation because of that.

He was happy to allow Keane plenty of latitude in enforcing his will on the rest of the players and didn't cry halt until the infamous MUTV rant.


Even then, it seems that Ferguson would have accepted an apology and moved on but Keane had turned his searchlight glare on a certain horse owned by major Manchester United shareholders and from that point on, the end was inevitable.

It was widely felt at the time that the very public nature of the dispute with John Magnier had impacted negatively on Manchester United's form so the Corkman wasn't alone in thinking that Ferguson's dalliance with the bloodstock industry was not helping the club.

"He gave an interview to David Walsh of the Sunday Times saying I only looked after myself and used the John Magnier/Rock of Gibraltar situation as an example. Unbelievable," claims Ferguson before describing the scene in his office on the day he took Keane to task for verbally assassinating the club's young players – Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea in particular.

"That day in my office, when we clashed, I saw the anger in him. His eyes blackened. He went on about John Magnier that day as well. I never understood his obsession with the Rock of Gibraltar affair."

To Keane, Rock of Gibraltar was Ferguson succumbing to outside forces; buying into the celebrity world and taking his eye off the ball – again an observation made by many seasoned pundits at the time.


But Ferguson saw a dangerous man, with hard eyes and an irrational viewpoint.

Elsewhere, he plays on the theme of Keane as a wildman, prone to fits of rage and unpredictable behaviour.

"The hardest part of Roy's body is his tongue. He has the most savage tongue you can imagine. He can debilitate the most confident person in the world in seconds with that tongue.

"What I noticed about him that day as I was arguing with him was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I'm from Glasgow.

"Roy's an intelligent guy. I saw him reading some interesting books," said Ferguson and a cynic might detect a note of sarcasm there.

"He's a good conversationalist and good company when he's in the right mood.

"The physio would come in and ask 'What sort of mood is Roy in today' because that would determine the whole mood of the dressing room.

"That was how influential he was in our daily lives. With his contradictions and mood swings, he could be wonderful one minute and antagonistic the next. The switch would flick in a moment.

"After Roy had left, Carlos saw I was quite upset. Never in his life, had he witnessed a scene of that nature.

"He called it the worst imaginable spectacle in the life of a professional football club. 'He needs to go Carlos,' I said. 'One hundred per cent,' he said. 'Get rid of him'."

Earlier in the chapter, Ferguson claims that Keane's rants at the time were all about one thing.


"I believe – and Carlos Quieroz was at one with me on this – that Roy Keane's behaviour pattern changed when he realised that he was no longer the Roy Keane of old. We're certain of that.

"I think Roy assumed he was coming to the end of his playing career and was starting to think he was the manager.

"He was assuming managerial responsibilities and of course, it's not a managerial responsibility to go on Manchester United television and slaughter your teammates."

And it is on the subject of Keane's first steps in management that Ferguson reserves his nastiest line.

"If you studied his final days at Sunderland, Ipswich, his beard would get whiter and his eyes blacker," said Ferguson.

"His two spells in management proved one thing: he needs money. He spent at Sunderland and failed. He spent a lot at Ipswich and came up short."