Roy Keane left Manchester United in November 2005 after airing his frustrations over our performance in the 4-1 defeat away to Middlesbrough. Keane didn’t bite his tongue when going through the players and highlighting their mistakes. He criticised Edwin Van der Sar for letting in Gaizka Mendieta’s attempt, claiming it was “saveable”. He said John O’Shea was just “strolling around” the pitch and not working hard enough to get back. He said Rio Ferdinand thought he was a “superstar”. He said he didn’t understand why people in Scotland raved about Darren Fletcher. He called Kieran Richardson a “lazy defender”. He said Alan Smith was “wandering around like he was lost” and didn’t know what he was doing.
Keane never played for the club again and signed for Celtic two weeks later. It was reported that Keane had fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson and that was the reason behind his departure. That’s clearly part of the story, but Keane reckons what ended his career at United was his stubbornness when it came to the fine given by the club. Speaking to the Limerick Leader, he revealed that instead of accepting it, as he had done for all the fines that had come before for poor conduct, he appealed it, believing he did nothing wrong.
The only reason I ended up leaving Man United was I appealed a €5,000 fine. If I hadn’t appealed the fine I wouldn’t have left Man Utd – don’t be brainwashed by the propaganda and lies. It is peanuts, you get fined that for being late for training at United. I appealed because I felt I shouldn’t have been fined for speaking about a match on the club station.
Have I stepped out of line? Damn right I have. Man United fined me about half a million pounds over my career but that is because I was sent off and I always held my hands up. Ironically when I appealed a €5,000 fine that’s when I left the club.
I wished they played this video, it is propaganda, ‘we had to destroy it’. How do you even destroy a video? I left with my head held up high, I was fine with my actions, I always felt my intentions were to do the best for Man United.
Life at United was a far cry from how he prepared for games with Ireland though. Keane reflected fondly on his time playing for Jack Charlton, who was manager of the international team from 1986-1996, and the drinking that would go on with his teammates.
I was as guilty as anyone, I loved craic, I loved going out. We would report on Sunday in Dublin for a match on Wednesday. Jack would pull the players together and say, ‘Look you can go for a few pints tonight’.
Jack knew how to man-manage. I still believe that is enough recovery unless you are out all night. I was a young player. You would have played on a Saturday and I always felt if you played hard you are entitled to a few pints. Nothing wrong with that, everything in moderation. Jack would say he would like us back by 12 o’clock. This was about 4pm. I’m thinking, ‘This is fair enough, plenty of time to get steamed up, that will do me’.
The senior players would go to Jack and say, ‘12 is an awkward time, you don’t leave the pub at quarter to 12 because usually if you’re out at 12 you’re probably going on somewhere else and only getting warmed up’.
Jack would say, ‘OK, 2am, we’ve a big game on Wednesday – that’s the cut-off-point’. I’m thinking, ‘Brilliant, I was happy with 12!”. The senior players said, ‘Jack, if you’re out at 2 you’re in a club and who leaves a club at 2? Two is awkward, Jack’.
Jack goes, ‘Alright lads, 4 o’clock, cut-off-point’. I’m in the background thinking, ‘Happy days, I might even nip back to Cork!’ Do you think we were happy at 4? Honestly, may I drop dead, the senior players said, ‘Jack, if you’re out ‘til 4 you might have got lucky, you can’t come back at 4’. Jack [exasperated] would say, ‘Just be back in the morning!.’
We would train at 2 on the following afternoon, all dying. If anyone came to watch Ireland train on Monday afternoon they were in for a shock – how were they going to play on Wednesday?
After training I would be back lying on my bed watching TV and Jack would be doing his press conference on RTE. He’d say, ‘I’ve never seen the players looking so sharp, training was the best I’ve seen in a long time!’. Jack was a brilliant man-manager. Come the Wednesday we would generally get the result.