It’s easy to forget just how influential Roy Keane was at Manchester United during his 12-year spell at the club.
Signed from Nottingham Forest, the Irish international midfielder went on to become a club legend, taking the armband during a period of domestic dominance and then European glory in 1999.
That he missed the final remains one of footballs travesties, although the 40-year-old’s performance against Juventus in the last four was one of the decisive moments in a stunning run to the trophy.
Given the cut-throat nature of the man (think prawn sandwich rant, Alf-Inge Haaland tackle, Ireland international walk-out), it was surprising that the 40-year-old from Cork didn’t fall out with manager Sir Alex Ferguson on a more regular basis.
Indeed, the suggestion is that their relationship was occasionally strained, but always loyal as the pair worked side-by-side to help the Red Devils calve out a position of dominance.
It’s that loyalty which Ferguson believes was called into question by Keane during his work as a pundit for ITV. The former Sunderland and Ipswich Town boss questioned if the kids were good enough after a European night of frustration against Basel, and the rest is history.
“I wouldn’t have thought so, no. He’s a busy man and I’m fairly busy,” he responded when asked about repairing the relationship with Ferguson.
“No, (I haven’t spoken to him recently), unless he goes out walking his dog on a Saturday afternoon. But I’ve not bumped into lots of people in football.”
Whilst Keane will return to Old Trafford for charity games in the summer months, he’s unlikely to forget the repost from Fergie over his own managerial record.
Unsurprisingly, Keane stands by his remarks.
“To be honest, I don’t think it was criticism. I just thought the young players needed to buck up their ideas. The boy Jones was speaking before the game, saying ’I’ve nothing to prove’, but my attitude was, every time you walk out on a football pitch, you’ve something to prove,” added Keane.
“But I also understood where he (Ferguson) was coming from. He got asked the question and it was only natural he was going to come out and have a dig back because he’s going to defend his young players and he’s going to be upset after a defeat.
“But when there’s snide comments coming in, I had a little dig back. That’s the end of that now, but you have to defend yourself as well when people are being critical of my managerial record or whatever.
“I said at the time that without players like myself and other ex-players I bump into - I was with Nicky Butt the other day - and those type of lads helped him get the record he’s got. People should remember that.”
The spat certainly hasn’t affected Keane’s loyalty to United on the fan front though, with the former Celtic midfielder certainly hoping the title ends up at Old Trafford rather than with the big-spending City rivals at the Etihad Stadium.
And, despite defeat in Monday night’s massive Manchester derby, Keane’s far from certain that the Citizens will come away with the three points against Newcastle United this weekend.
"I think everyone needs to remember what a tough game Man City have got going up to Newcastle," Keane told The Irish Times.
"There’s a bit of doom and gloom around United, but if they do lose the league it won’t be down to that result – it’s the Everton game that will come back to haunt them."
"I’d never write them off. United are still the best club, still have the best manager and the best supporters. I was pretty upset the other night when they got beaten and I don’t like feeling that way because you have to try to move on.
"But I still have loyalty to United, no matter what way I finished with the club, or whatever my relationship with the manager might be."
It's clear that Keane's relationship with Manchester United goes much further than Ferguson, irrespective of the role the Scot played in developing the talented Forest youngster into a Premier League superstar.
And, irrespective of whose managing the club or what TV channel he's working for, his loyalty will always lie at United's door.
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