Roy Keane has reignited his war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson with a withering series of remarks about the former Manchester United boss.
Keane opens up on his bitter exit from Old Trafford and the breakdown of his relationship with Ferguson in an ITV documentary to be screened on Tuesday night.
He talks of Fergie’s methods of ‘power and control’ and his ‘massive ego’, hails Brian Clough as ‘without a doubt’ the best manager he worked for and omits Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville when choosing the finest United team from his former team-mates.
Keane brands Neville ‘the weakest link’ and, in reference to Giggs, says: ‘Having a great career doesn’t mean you’re a great player.’
Included in his team instead of Fergie’s favourites are rebels who fell out with the former United manager, including Jaap Stam, Paul Ince, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
‘You don’t win league titles by having choirboys in your dressing room,’ says Keane. ‘These boys did challenge the manager in different ways. Becks challenged the manager but because you marry a certain woman it doesn’t mean you’re challenging the manager.
‘The manager’s got to understand that. We’ve got different personalities in our dressing room but maybe that’s why we’re winning trophies.’
Ferguson’s retirement earlier this year has enabled Keane to return and watch the team, eight years after his United career ended.
‘I felt raw when I left,’ says Keane. ‘I’ve eased off now a bit in terms of the bad feeling I had towards them.
‘It helps that Ferguson has gone and I’ve got a couple of season tickets with my son and we go and watch them as much as we can.
‘So I have that warmth towards Man United once again and it did leave me for a couple of years, which I feel bad saying because in every minute of every day I spent at that football club I really enjoyed it. I feel very fortunate to have played for them.’
It was November 2005, when Ferguson summoned the Irishman and told him it was time to go following the storm which surrounded Keane’s critical but never-to-be-broadcast comments about the team on MUTV, the club’s in-house channel.
‘The manager told me we’d come to the end and I said, “You’re right”,’ says Keane. ‘I’d obviously lost respect for him and he’d lost respect for me. What would be best for Man United, if they thought I was some sort of loose cannon, was to leave. I got my boots and drove out. Don’t think I’m some sort of machine here. I was upset of course, and I did shed a few tears in my car outside the training ground for about two minutes, but also I told myself I needed to get on with my life.
‘Alex Ferguson thanked me for my 11-and-a-half years at the club and I had to remind him I’d been at Man United for 12-and-a-half years. Again, I think this was all part of the game, you know. Two words the manager spoke to me about a number of times were “control” and “power” and that was how he worked. We can still see that now even though he’s not a manager. I don’t think that will ever leave him.
‘There is massive ego involved in that you have power and control over people and you try and have it even when you’re not working with them.’
Keane criticises Ferguson’s conduct in his racehorse dispute with former United shareholder John Magnier, saying: ‘If people don’t think that had a negative effect on the club then they’re living in cuckoo land.’
And he rejects accusations from Ferguson’s book that he was a fading force on the pitch and trying to assume managerial responsibilities. He also denies the manager’s version of events regarding the MUTV interview.
‘Just because Alex Ferguson says it doesn’t mean it’s the truth,’ says Keane. ‘Really, what would have helped everybody is if they had just played the damn video.
‘The manager has accused me of trying to manage Man United behind his back but what I did do, I managed the dressing room. That was my job. I tried to nail players who stepped out of line.
‘I never felt for one second I was more important than the manager. Absolute nonsense.
‘I could have played for Man United easily for another couple of years in the middle of the park.’
Keane describes his relationship these days with Ferguson as ‘obviously non-existent’. Asked if he felt let down, he says: ‘Nothing surprises me with that man.’
Asked who was the best manager he played for, Keane answers: ‘Without a doubt, Brian Clough.’
The questioner adds: ‘Not Sir Alex Ferguson,’ and he replies: ‘You asked me the question, I answered you.’
The documentary Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies will be shown on Tuesday at 10pm on ITV4.
It is compelling viewing as the former captains of Manchester United and Arsenal meet to discuss the days when their teams would fight, sometimes literally, for the Barclays Premier League title.
Among the epic games recounted is the highly charged clash at Highbury in 2005, defined by a pre-match row between the two captains in the Highbury tunnel, triggered when Patrick Vieira tried to intimidate Gary Neville.
‘What really annoyed me that night was . . . that you were picking on Gary,’ says Keane. ‘I was looking at Nicky Butt and Wes Brown and I’m thinking you were almost picking on the weakest link.
‘So that’s what got my back up.’
Vieira bemoans Arsenal’s lack of leadership in the trophy-free years since his departure and reveals how he tried to persuade Arsene Wenger not to sell Ashley Cole.
‘I tried to fight it a little bit because I wanted him to stay,’ explains Vieira. ‘Ashley was supposed to be the next Arsenal captain because he was a player from the youth, grew up at the club and to let him go and see him go, I was disappointed.’
Most compelling of all, however, is Keane’s assessment of Ferguson
Written by Steve Milne – Have your say below