'I’d pay whatever it takes to get him' - Bryan Robson reveals the role he played in Man United signing Roy Keane
Bryan Robson has revealed that he played a key role in persuading his manager Alex Ferguson to pay a British record transfer fee to sign Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest in 1993.
United captain Robson appreciated that Keane’s arrival at the club for a fee of £3.75m may be the beginning of the end of his reign as the club’s midfield enforcer, but he appreciated the qualities offered by the young Irishman and encouraged Ferguson to seal the deal.
Keane already had an offer on the table from Blackburn before he decided to turn down Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish and sign for United instead, with Robson revealing his role in the transfer for the first time.
“Funnily enough, I possibly had a bit of an influence on that signing,” stated Robson, in quotes appearing in the Daily Mirror.
“I was in with the staff one morning when they were talking about Keane. The boss was asking whether they should pay that sort of money for him. I said, ‘For what it’s worth, Gaffer, I’d pay whatever it takes to get him.’
“People go on about Keane being my natural successor and the similarities between us. He certainly went on to prove his worth as a central midfield player and captain, but every player has his own style and personality and has to be judged as an individual.
“I knew I was shooting myself in the foot. The first-choice combination in midfield would probably be Paul Ince and Keane because I was getting on, but that didn’t bother me as long as I could still be part of United and come in whenever I was needed.”
Keane’s career could have taken a very different path if it were not for the intervention of Robson and his own decision to rejcect the offer from Blackburn.
“I got permission to go to Blackburn and they had offered £4m,” Keane recalled.
“I met Kenny Dalglish, agreed a contract. Decent money, I was on about £250,000-a-year at Forest and Blackburn offered me £400,000, so it was a decent little pay rise. I agreed a deal on a Friday night and we shook hands.
“Then I got a call from United. I met Brian Kidd (United’s assistant manager) and Alex Ferguson, had a game of snooker with them, and they gave me the small talk about how great I was…and I believed them,” he added.
“The problem was they had not agreed a fee with Forest. They offered me £300,000-a-year, which was not a massive rise considering it was going to be a transfer record.
“Kenny Dalglish found out I had agreed to go to United and he was fuming, he was effing and blinding.
“I said listen, I’m going on holiday next week with a few lads….doing a bit of sightseeing!
“He said, I’m going to come to Ayia Napa, I’m going to find ya. So every bar in Ayia Napa, I was waiting for Kenny Dalglish to walk in.”
They are two stories that reveal how the course of football history could have been dramatically different for one of Ireland’s all-time greats.
Ferguson, Robson, Keane and all United supporters will agree that the right decision was made in the end.