You’re sat there at the table trying to eat Christmas dinner but there’s so much tension in the air that it is uncomfortable?
Me neither, but that’s exactly how it feels now Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane’s spat is turning into a full blown feud, playing out publicly via the media.
The statement ‘never wash your dirty laundry in public’ has never been apt but it appears that its is too late for that.
As United crashed out of the Champions League at the start of the month, some felt Roy Keane was exceptionally harsh in his analysis of the game. He called into question United’s youngsters (deja vu) and declared that they needed to buck up their ideas. Keane has always had a sharp tongue and team mate or opposition, nobody was above being on the receiving end of it.
Regardless of this Sir Alex did what he always does and defended his team saying,
“I don’t know why you are bringing this up from a television critic. Roy had an opportunity to prove himself as a manager and it’s a hard job.”
If Roy’s comments had been harsh then Sir Alex’s response was cutting as he took aim at his former player.
Keane brushed off Sir Alex’s comments about his managerial record, he understands there are few people in the world that can compare to his former manager. But it was the insinuation that he is some sort of traitor that hurt him the most. In his match notes for the Wolves game, Sir Alex wrote:
“We will take a lot of stick from critics and even from people we thought were perhaps on our side but we mustn’t dwell on that either.”
As much as people say Keane resents the club, it was this comment that he took to heart:
“There was an angle there of trying to get the fans to look differently at me and I thought, ‘I can’t have that’. I thought it was ridiculous.”
He knows his standing with the fans and felt Sir Alex was trying to tarnish that somewhat. None of us are babies and we can see exactly what Sir Alex was doing by wording his statement that way too. Keane is a United fan and comes from a family of United fans, so to claim Keane wasn’t on United’s side was always going to get a rise out of him.
And it did, Keane wasn’t going to take that lying down. Despite waiting years, he got his own back on Alf Inge Haarland and with the national press giving him the opportunity, he fired back at Sir Alex.
There has always been talk of sour grapes when discussing Keane post United. His exit was hardly glorious and it’s more than obvious the relationship between him and Sir Alex is strained but his comments are likely to make their relationship worse.
Sir Alex is a massive figure in the game and attacks on his person are normally brushed off. We ridiculed Rafa Benitez when he made such spurious claims about Sir Alex in that now infamous rant.
Benitez was manager of the opposition, whilst they will say he was trying to take some of the pressure off his players (yes that’s an actual excuse I have heard from Liverpool fans), I feel it was an attack on Sir Alex by a man that clearly didn’t and still doesn’t like him.
But when these comments come from a source closer to home, you can’t just brush them off. Some of the stuff Roy Keane said will be deemed explosive but how bad/inaccurate were these comments?
When asked if he felt he wouldn’t have been kicked out of the club for that infamous MUTV rant had he been 27, Keane replied:
“Absolutely. I had disagreements with the manager over many years. I remember one really bad one, I might have been 26 or 27, something happened at a Christmas do, it was a proper blazing row, but he dealt with it.
Clever management, you recognise when players are really important to you.I go back to the two words, power and control. ‘Say this, Roy, do this, pull this in a little bit’, what I did or said was always for the good of the club. I suffered for that towards the end, then it was unacceptable. The difference was that I was 34.”
This is nothing new to us though. This is the same Sir Alex who decided it would be in the club’s best interests to keep Wayne Rooney after that whole mess last October. Keane pointed to ‘Power and Control’, yet these are the exact things Sir Alex spoke of when giving a speech at Trinity College in 2010 on the issues he faces as United manager, so this isn’t exactly a revelation.
Whilst Keane’s point of view paints Sir Alex in a bad light, one has to understand that as manager of such a massive club Sir Alex has to do what he feels is best for the group, even if it does put an individuals nose out of joint. So I’d hope that Sir Alex’s decision to let Roy Keane go was a decision based on this rather than a personal one.
Keane then took aim at Sir Alex’s dealings with John Magnier saying,
“The Irish thing, I was speaking to the manager about it. This didn’t help the club, the manager going to law against its leading shareholder.
“How could it be of benefit to Man United? It wasn’t and we know what happened. What was that all about? Power and control.
‘They’ve used me, they’ve treated me badly’, Ferguson told me in his office. I said, ‘You’re not going to win’, and he said, ‘I don’t care, no-one does that to me’, and I go, ‘Okay, off you go, I’m not going to change your mind’.
“Amazing what happens.”
This episode isn’t one of Sir Alex’s finest and is one of the main things his detractors point to when trying to soil his name. In his book On The Road: A Journey Through A Season, United fan Daniel Harris points to the fact that Sir Alex’s legal battle with John Magnier made it easier for the Glazers to assume control of the club.
The Glazers are such a contentious subject for most United fans, so to try and make Sir Alex culpable for their being in control is massive.
Sir Alex probably won’t reply to these quotes, so we will never know if they are accurate but if he did in fact say ‘I don’t care, no-one does that to me’ it paints a picture of an extremely arrogant Sir Alex.
This is a man that is tasked with steering the ship, so to put himself ahead of the what is best for the club completely contradicts the idea that Sir Alex does what is best for the club. I don’t think there is a defence for this but again we don’t know how accurate these comments are.
Keane also spoke on his refusal to attend Sir Alex’s 25th anniversary celebration,
“Anne Wiley, the club secretary, got in touch, but I didn’t go. Everyone to their own. Martin (O’Neill) said to me, ‘You’ve got to move on’, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. ‘No, not for me’, I said. I did get in touch with Anne, didn’t just not turn up. The way it ended, the legal letter, I couldn’t have gone and sat there like everything was great, he would come in and we all stand up and clap. I couldn’t do that.”
Again this has drawn calls of sour grapes, but it is a tough situation to speak on. We can all state what we would have done, but none of us are Roy Keane. We don’t know how deeply he was affected by the way he left United but the fact he stated,
“The day I left United, in hindsight, I should have stopped playing. I lost the love of the game that Friday morning.”
Gives us a bit of insight.
What we can say is that Sir Alex played a massive part in making Roy Keane great and Roy Keane was a massive part in the great things Sir Alex has achieved here. Keane has often been called the physical embodiment of Sir Alex on field so you will understand that two fiery characters will clash.
If you have two magnets and try to put north and north together they will repel each other and it appears this is what is happening here. Keane is a fully grown man and has the right to make any decision he likes, even if we don’t agree with them. People carry grudges,we are all human. Sir Alex has done the same too, you only have to look at his relationships with people like Brian Kidd and Gordon Strachan.
I don’t see it as sour grapes from Keane, rather I see it as a man lashing out because he feels wronged. From the tone of his comments I get the impression he would like to be back on the ‘inside’.
He could have simply ignored the invitation to the party and the fact feeling uncomfortable was the primary reason he stated for not going, leads me to believe that he doesn’t bear Sir Alex any real malice.
On the other hand Sir Alex has to look after the team, even if you disagree with his methods, he has always been brilliant at protecting his own. Creating a siege mentality has been one of his most successful tactics, it’s just a shame that on this occasion Keane finds himself as one of ‘them’, rather than ‘us’.
It is probably his unfamiliarity with being in such a position that has caused a fair bit of anger in the Irishman.
This whole situation is a mess and is definitely something that could have been avoided if Sir Alex had not sniped at Keane after the Basel game and Keane hadn’t gone to the press to air his grievances.
It is unlikely that this will have an affect on Sir Alex or his preparations for United’s title defence but it is still a very disappointing, awkward and unnecessary matter.
I would like either to step down and bury the hatchet, but Sir Alex has made a career of being relentless and because of it we are the biggest club in the world whilst Roy never gave an inch and that is part of the reason why he is our most successful captain ever.
Both sides have a claim to being right and I feel at a time like this we should take our Sir Alex and Roy Keane hats off and put our Man United hats on.
I won’t be picking sides and feel in a case like this neither should anyone else.