Analysis: Roy Keane's opinion is much more in line with United supporters than Alex Ferguson's
If you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple of days, you might be unaware that Roy Keane has brought out a new autobiography, which gives an insight to his life in the 12 years that have passed since he brought out his first book.
Much of the stories he retells have made their way out to the public before now regardless, but it’s still worth reading his take on some of the career defining moments that took place in the lead up to his departure from Manchester United.
The deterioration of Alex Ferguson and Keane’s relationship is one of the more disappointing moments in the past few decades of glory for United fans.
Both men were heroes to the supporters, who had brought them moments of immeasurable joy on so many occasions, meaning the break-up left fans in an awkward position. As can be the case with the offspring of divorced parents, a side had to be chosen, and most went with Ferguson.
Maybe that was more through loyalty to the club though, with the manager still in post and Keane playing or managing elsewhere.
However, after having Keane’s opinion reaffirmed in his autobiography, his point of view is much more in line with that of the supporters’ than Ferguson’s is.
The decision to get involved in a legal battle with John Magnier and JP McManus changed the whole course of history for Manchester United. While plenty of fans are prepared to sweep this under the carpet, despite the fact the Glazer ownership has the potential to totally cripple the club, Keane has revealed in his autobiography that he confronted the manager about it at the time.
I told him that I didn’t think it was good for the club, the manager in a legal dispute with shareholders. I felt I was entitled to say that.
Fans should be glad that someone spoke out and it’s highly regrettable that Ferguson didn’t listen.
Before this, Keane had taken the manager to task over the quality of the squad too, in a row with Ferguson during pre-season training.
“We need f*****g more from you. We need a bit more, gaffer. We’re slipping behind other teams.”
Keane, again, was spot on. Arsenal had won the league after going a season unbeaten and then Chelsea won the title with an incredible 95 points. After dominating English football in the 1990’s and in to the new millennium, United had fallen quite some way behind rival clubs and weren’t competing at the top anymore.
Instead of winning the title or cup finals, United resorted to the life of a normal football fan, and got their kicks out of last minute wins over their rivals or digging deep to get a result with 10 men. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that for an ordinary person, but then, there isn’t much that is ordinary about Keane.
There probably aren’t too many captains who would take to the club’s official television channel to rip their teammates apart following a defeat. Keane’s assessment of the team after the 4-1 defeat against Middlesbrough was never aired on MUTV but his remarks were leaked to the press.
Keane hadn’t said anything that the fans weren’t thinking and, while some sided with him, the majority of supporters were angry that he had aired the club’s dirty laundry in public. As if the situation wasn’t embarrassing enough, having the Glazers in charge and United sitting seventh in the table, 13 points behind Chelsea after just 10 games, without Keane giving rival fans something else to mock the club with.
In his second autobiography, Keane insists that this incident was blown out of proportion by people outside of the club, and that the flames were fanned by Ferguson’s decision to fine him £5,000.
It was getting a bit silly so I got the players together in the dressing room and told them it was f*****g nonsense. They were all going: ‘Yeah, Yeah’. Not one of them had an issue. Not one.
Even now people still say: "The video had to be destroyed". Like it was a nuclear weapon or something.”
I said to Darren Fletcher: "Fletch?” I had said something about my wife tackling better than him for one of the goals. But I could tell he was fine with it.
But the manager and Carlos were in the back with steam coming out of their ears. The manager said: "It’s a disgrace, this f*****g video."
Maybe it was a disgrace, but it came from the right place, and that is something a lot of fans have had trouble coming to terms with since Keane’s departure. While he regularly gets accused of being bitter when working as a pundit during United games or when he’s interviewed by a newspaper, you don’t spend 12 years at a club without growing attached.
Maybe he cared too much and that is why he couldn’t bear to see such abject performances in the Champions League after he left. Given the “emphatic display of selflessness” that Keane put in to games in Europe, according to Ferguson after United’s 3-2 over Juventus in Turin in 1999, “pounding over every blade of glass”, it must have been galling to see how spineless United looked at times.
Keane is in United’s history books and, likewise, the club is still inside him, as exemplified in a conversation that he had with his son, revealed in the autobiography.
I still have a soft spot for United, and thank God I do. I took my son to the Champions League final, between Bayern and Dortmund, at Wembley, in 2013. He was going on about different teams, and I asked him, ‘Which team do you support?’
He said, ‘United.’
So I said, ‘Why do you support United?’
And he said, ‘Well, I was born in Manchester and I’m not going to support City, am I?’
That was a good enough reason. And I thought to myself, ‘I’d better get us some season tickets.’
We went to see them recently and I was going, ‘Come on! F*****’ hell – come on.’
I want them to do well.
Are these the words of a bitter man? Roy Keane would never have allowed a team he was playing in to concede a 3-1 lead like United did at Leicester earlier this season. He was a winner and, whatever he has to say about his former club these days, there’s no denying how passionate he was to make them the best they could be during his playing years, and how pleased it would make him to see United at the top once again.
Scott Patterson is a season-ticket holder at Old Trafford from Manchester and founder of the Republik of Mancunia