Roy Keane was a superb captain, something which is undeniable to even those that hate the man. His ability was never the greatest on the field, but his passion, desire and commitment outweighed anything his team mates and usually opposition had to offer.
“He did not have the ability of someone like Eric Cantona or Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes but he had this fire in his stomach which gets them there,” said Sir Alex Ferguson last year. “He was not the quickest player but he was always first to the ball. In terms of sheer influence, he was the best player I have ever had.”
We couldn’t have asked for better than Keano, but he left the club under a cloud, only to return months later for his testimonial, saying goodbye to the fans and making his peace with Ferguson.
With great passion and determination, there will usually come a wicked temper, something we have seen in several of our best players. It was that temper which cost Keane his position within our club.
“Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar,” ranting Keane in the interview that was pulled before airing on MUTV, following the 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough. “The younger players have been let down by some of the more experienced players. They are just not of characters in the team. It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that is what I should do when I come back. Play badly.”
Keane had let a few home truths be known over the years at United, particularly after the Treble winning season when some players seem to take their foot off the gas. He had always been on his team mates back, enforcing they always strove for perfection. The MUTV interview back in 2005 was no different, accept this time there was a chance of the public getting their hands on it.
“I wasn’t surprised by the result I had been expecting one like this,” he continued. “The players have been asked questions and they are just not coming up with the answers. I am sick of having to say it and they are sick of listening to me. They have let down the club, the manager, and the fans. When they sign the contracts, they think they have made it. They owe it to the manager, the staff and the fans.”
At the time and to this day, I do not think it was Roy Keane’s place to attack the players in the way he did. On the front of Red Issue that week, the picture showed Ferguson and Keane, the manager with a speech bubble saying “You shouldn’t have said those things,” to which Keane responded, “No, you should!” Whilst I see the importance of a captain, they are not in a position to start slating their team mates in public. Keane got ideas above his station, although I understand his position came from the frustration of seeing United fail. His best years were behind him, he knew he didn’t have much time left in him with his knackered hips, but he wanted the best for Manchester United.
He has today responded to questions about Gallas’ decision to slag off his team mates to a tabloid, which have seemingly lead to the captaincy being taken from him. Whilst Keane was looking out for his club, Gallas is only concerned with number one.
“I am trying to defend myself a bit without giving names,” Gallas said. “Otherwise I’m taking it all (the blame). It’s very frustrating,”
We first saw his selfishness at Birmingham, laying in to Gael Clichy after he gave away a penalty, then leaving his team mates to it, marching to the half way line. Had the keeper made a save and the rebound put away the man Gallas should have been marking, maybe the Arsenal fans would have seen their captain’s behaviour as crazy as everyone else.
As the team mates rushed off for news on Eduardo’s injury, captain Gallas remained on the pitch, crying by himself.
Speaking from experience, Keane gave his opinion on the Gallas situation.
“I used to quite a bit,” Keane said when asked if Gallas was wrong to criticise. “But there are ways of doing it.” Obviously implying that speaking to a nationwide rag that will twist and dramatise everything you say isn’t the best way to go.
“You just hope you have a strong dressing room,” Keane continued. “You hope you have a few captains in your dressing room to take care of things. I was lucky in my playing days that we had some strong characters and we used to deal with what ever was going on in the dressing room. If I was missing something, which I very rarely did, then there was another couple of players to spot things. A good dressing room and a good captain can make the manager’s job easier. Everyone has the right to say what they feel every now and again and if it upsets people, so what? People are too easily upset these days.”
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.