Roy Keane escalates feud with Alex Ferguson
The extent of Roy Keane's enmity towards Alex Ferguson was made clear over the weekend after the Corkman lifted the lid on the complete breakdown of their relationship.
In an explosive Sunday newspaper interview, Keane revealed that Manchester United had threatened legal action back in 2008 when he spoke about his abrupt departure from Old Trafford three years previously.
Keane ignored letters from solicitors acting on behalf of the club, who requested a retraction and a guarantee there would be no further criticisms.
The former club captain left by what was described as ‘mutual consent' in the weeks after a scathing criticism of Manchester United's youngsters on the club's official station MUTV — a rant that was never actually broadcast.
His latest spat with the Scot follows comments he made about Ferguson's new generation in the wake of their Champions League exit.
Keane's views were met with an angry response from Ferguson, who had a pop at Keane's chequered managerial record in response. Yet the Irishman says he was really annoyed when the Manchester United boss used his programme notes for the visit of Wolves that weekend to make reference to critics who “we thought were perhaps on our side.”
Keane believes that was a thinly veiled dig at himself, and that prompted him to come forward and deliver wide-ranging thoughts on his old mentor's approach.
“Listen, you could question every pundit's managerial skill in relation to his and we're all going to come up short.
“But I would also say that without players like myself, maybe he wouldn't have such a good managerial record, because players who go down the punditry road, it's soon forgotten that we put bodies on the line for him,” he said.
He says that the 69-year-old is obsessed with “power and control” and suggested that it was an attitude that was prevalent in the dispute with John Magnier over the breeding rights for the racehorse Rock Of Gibraltar.
“That didn't help the club, the manager going to law against its leading shareholder,” Keane observed. “I said ‘You're not going to win' and he said 'I don't care, no-one does that to me'.”
There was no comment from Ferguson on the matter yesterday because he wasn't asked about it. The Manchester United boss shuns post-match press conferences for Premier League games, and merely fulfils obligations with broadcasters and with MUTV; a unique approach which is barely challenged by the English football hierarchy.
It fell to opposing boss Neil Warnock to comment. “Do you think Alex Ferguson worries about Roy Keane, Joe Bloggs, the Prime Minister?” he replied. Keane feels that other managers have a deferential approach to Ferguson.
He defended Kevin Keegan's infamous ‘I'd love it if we beat them' rant from the 1996 title race, stating that it was a rare act of bravery from an opposing boss.
He doesn't believe that Ferguson's ‘mind games' were a key aspect of the title race. Instead, he points out that it was the performance of the players, a theme that extends across the rest of his thoughts.
“Everyone was looking at that famous clip and laughing but the reason they were laughing because we won,” he said. “While people might think Kevin lost out on that, I don't think he did. I thought, ‘You've done right there, Kevin, defending your team'.
“We won the league and everyone went on about the mind games and how brilliant they were. It helps when you've got good players winning you matches.
“You see managers interviewed [now] after their team has beaten Chelsea or Arsenal. ‘We've won and Fergie will be delighted, maybe a bottle of wine will be on the way to me now.' You work that one out.”
Ultimately, Keane says that the catalyst for his comments was the feeling that Ferguson was trying to turn the Manchester United fans against him.
“There was an angle there of trying to get the fans to look differently at me and I thought, ‘I can't have that'. I thought it was ridiculous,” Keane said.
“I can hardly do the TV wearing the United scarf and if me telling the young players to pull their socks up is such a hard thing to accept, I ask myself what kind of world are we living in?
“I know how this works, absolutely. When I spoke to Alex
about management before I left United, the two words he always used were power and control.
“I understand power and control over people inside the football club, understand that 100%. But not power and control of the people who have left the club.
“He's trying to have power and control over me but I left six years ago. So I just thought, ‘You didn't need to go there', but having said that, it didn't surprise me.
“I look back at the relationship and sometimes wonder if it wasn't about me being good for him and good for the club. People say he stood by me in difficult times. Not when I was 34., not when I was towards the end and had a few differences with Carlos Queiroz.
“All of sudden then ‘off you go Roy, and here's the statement we've done'.”
Although this latest episode will do no harm to Keane's stock as a pundit, he insists that his future lies in management.
He still likes to watch games on a regular basis, but says he dodges Old Trafford, and turned down an invitation to a banquet celebrating Ferguson's 25 years in charge of the Red Devils
Instead, he prefers the relative solitude of Wigan, although he was turned away from the ground before their defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago when a woman in the ticket office didn't recognise him and refused to sell him a ticket unless he provided his personal details.
Security were called when Keane reacted angrily, before voluntarily making his own way home.
“As much as I'm enjoying my time off, I see myself on the sideline with the team,” he said, as the one-year anniversary of his exit from Ipswich nears.
If he does return to the dugout, he may have to do without the customary message that Ferguson sends to all new managerial appointments.