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24th Jun 2024

Roy Keane still fuming after conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson 19-years-ago

Zoe Hodges

‘I hadn’t done anything wrong’

Roy Keane is still angry 19 years on from Manchester United exit that left him in ‘no man’s land’.

Speaking on the Stick to Football podcast, Keane insists he did nothing wrong in the lead up to his departure and slammed Alex Ferguson for his handling of the situation.

He said: “The worst anger you can have is the justified anger where you feel – again I feel – I hadn’t done anything wrong.”

At the time, a 34-year-old Roy Keane, who had won seven Premier League titles with the Reds, four FA Cups and the Champions League, was nursing a broken foot and had laid into his teammates after a 4-1 loss to Middlesbrough in a scathing interview for MUTV which never aired.

Sir Alex Ferguson was fuming and weeks later, Keane was pulled in to discuss his future. A ten-minute conversation which left the Irish midfielder and his solicitor shellshocked.

He said: “My solicitor, my client, who did all my deals, the most relaxed, placid man you’d ever meet, I’ve seen him negotiate – a very good man and knew a good deal – but he almost fell off his chair.

“Ferguson and [David] Gill went, “We’ve come to the end and here’s a statement.” I was like, ‘”Alright” and he was like, “What?!” I said, “Leave it Mike,” and they went out and I said, “Yeah, I’m out of here,” and he [my solicitor] couldn’t believe it – all within ten minutes.”

Roy Keane

In hindsight, Keane regrets he did not insist on seeing out his contract but said: “Believe it or not, I thought too much of the club.

“I was home by half nine, quarter to ten, my wife’s gone, “What’s happened?”, I went, “It’s over.” They still hadn’t done my termination, and Mike was like, “I can’t believe it’s happening” and then statements came out, then I found out that day I couldn’t go to another team – so I couldn’t play until January.”

Keane wishes he had stayed and trained with the reserves for a few months to keep fit, as the decision left him in no man’s land.

He had been at the club for 12 years and was captain for eight of those, including the 1999 Treble winning team. After making 478 appearances for the Red Devils, Keane was understandably hurt by the way his departure was handled, especially by respected manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Ultimately, it was my decision [to leave Manchester United] because I still had a few months left of my contract until the summer, but I still don’t get how a manager [Sir Alex Ferguson], who I worked with for such a long time – and listen, there’s two sides to every story, I have no problem with that – it’s give and take.

“I was good for the club and the club were good for me. But, how a manager with all that experience can’t sit down with a player – and I’ve been a manager whose made mistakes with players – but can’t sit down and go, “Listen, come the summer,” but it was all the way it was done.

“I no doubt caused him trouble when I was a bit younger – whether it was going drinking, or going missing, or being late for training, whatever might be the case – but my issue towards the end is, and my anger I’ve always had at the end when I left was, I felt I did nothing wrong and I still have that.”

However, despite his frustration, he went on to praise the now 82-year-old who managed United to 13 Premier League titles.

“The one thing I’d always praise the manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] for is at the time he obviously had to manage some really good players and big characters. I always thought he said the right thing, at the right time. I liked the fact that he’s just got that balance right regarding being tough, or being fair with people.”

Keane went on to play for Celtic for half a season until an ACL injury forced him to retire. He has since become a regular face on TV as a pundit, with his brutal assessments often dividing opinion.

He has also gone in to management and been head coach at Sunderland and Ipswich and assistant coach with Ireland, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

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