Saturday 22 October 2016

Paul Hyland: Bitter Ferguson just can't move on from his feud with ex-captain Keane

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson during their time as Manchester United captain and manager respectively
Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson during their time as Manchester United captain and manager respectively

There's bitter and there's downright indigestible. Alex Ferguson sounds like an old man with nothing else to do than shove firelighters onto old coals in a tawdry effort to generate some heat in his battle of wills with Roy Keane.

Of all the great feuds in sport few have had such power to generate cash.

The sight of two alpha-males ripping chunks out of eachother's reputation has always sound-tracked with the jingle of tills jangling and royalty cheques rustling.

Keane fired himself up into a beardful of righteous indignation when his masterwork with Roddy Doyle was unveiled. He bristled when he told us how he had been betrayed by Ferguson and struck the right, dark pose for the front pages.

It wasn't a pretty thing to watch. Sure, Keane felt some anger towards his old boss but he was clearly acting out a role for his publishers with the obvious incentive a financial one.

Both men have plenty of money and Ferguson, in particular, is not short of a few bob as we see from his revelation that he insisted that no player should earn more than him at Manchester United.

So there is no need to carry on, no need to keep scratching at an old sore and yet they do.

It is hard to keep up with the various rewrites of Keane's book and indeed Ferguson's.


If there can be such a thing in printed form, both books have become a live blog of bitterness. Every update brings another insult and a further cheapening of a relationship which did great things and made football history at Old Trafford.

A recent accidental click on a YouTube link brought up the full version of Manchester United's Champions League semi-final against Juventus, you know the one - Keane's Everest.

Do yourself a favour and go look at it again.

As a counter-weight to Ferguson's ludicrous claim that Keane was not a 'great' player, it requires no commentary.

Ferguson has reached the point where his sourness has overtaken rational thought and that is entirely in keeping with his personality.

Some pointed out yesterday that Ferguson's four nominees for world class status in his time at Old Trafford, Ronaldo, Cantona, Scholes and Giggs, all shared one characteristic. They never fell out with Fergie.

It is a well-made point. Anyone who ever opposed Ferguson is etched onto a list which the man seems to brood over. When he gets a chance, he throws in the bitter word. Even now when he should be enjoying his memories, he just can't help himself.

Back in the day, he raved about Keane in a way which revealed just how great he believed the Corkman was.

And he was great. He didn't have Cantona's wild streak of genius or Ronaldo's preening brilliance. He didn't have Giggs's pace or trickery or Scholes's ability to make the play but without him, Ferguson's CV would be very different.

Imagine if Keane had chosen Blackburn and Kenny Dalglish or thrown his lot in with Arsenal or Chelsea. Would Ferguson's parade of titles have been as long as it was? Was Keane so good that he would have lifted any club and opposed Manchester United tooth and nail? Of course he was. That's why they signed him.

Without him, Ireland would not have qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals and only a great player can carry a team on his back like that.

He doesn't need to make a case for greatness because, as Ferguson said himself about his chosen four, the evidence is there in the medals Keane won and how he did it.

Of course the reason Ferguson chose to damn Keane with faint praise was simply tit-for-tat.

Keane nominated Brian Clough as the best manager he has worked under and he may even believe that but the best partnership he had was undoubtedly with the man he despises.

But we are rapidly approaching the point where nobody really cares anymore. Fergie is out of the game and is no longer relevant.

Keane still wants to work and if he's smart, he will draw a line under it now.

Potential employers shy away from extremes.

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