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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Alex Ferguson: Roy Keane was the 'best player in Europe'

Gina Quin, chief executive of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson before his speech at the National Convention Centre
Gina Quin, chief executive of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson before his speech at the National Convention Centre

They say that the strongest person is the first one to forgive, and so between feuding football legends Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson, this round went to the Scotsman.

Both men were in the capital yesterday - Keane for the launch his new book in the Aviva Stadium, and Fergie at the National Convention Centre for an address to Dublin Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner.

But while the Irish assistant manager took his old gaffer to task early on in the day, when the ex-Manchester United boss addressed business leaders later in the evening he had nothing but praise for his former club captain.

In true Keano style, he didn't hold back when speaking about Ferguson at the launch of his book, Second Half, just after lunch.

"For Alex Ferguson not just to criticise myself, but other players who were part of a team that brought good days to supporters. When you think of what he made out of it, he made millions of pounds, he got his statue, he got a stand named after him... to criticise those who brought him success was ridiculous," said Keane.

If Ferguson had heard any of Keane's comments from earlier in the day, he didn't let on last night.

He addressed a packed audience that included Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton as well as former Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll and snooker player Ken Doherty.

And he had nothing but warmth and respect for Keane.

character

As the hundreds of people in the room waited on his every word, he slipped in the K-word just twice.

The first was in reference to strength of character and resilience.

Speaking about players he managed at the later stages of his career he said their mentality did not match those of their predecessors.

"See particularly in the last ten or 15 years the players we were getting were the most fragile we'd ever had, not like the Robsons and the Keanes," said Ferguson. "It was because they have grown up differently."

His only other reference to his former midfielder was when he spoke about the best day of his life, when Manchester United won the Champions League by beating Bayern Munich 2-1.

"The most fantastic football moment of my life: Barcelona 1999. Now many people say we were lucky but the character of that team won that game.

"We didn't actually play well in the first half I must say that.

"We didn't have Roy Keane or Paul Scholes - the best players in Europe," said Ferguson, referring to Keane's suspension for the big game.

criticised

In Ferguson's own book, which he released last year, he said Keane "overstepped the mark," when he criticised his team-mates in an MUTV interview, that marked the player's departure from Manchester United.

Keane (43) said at the time that he would address Ferguson's remarks at a later stage and he has sought to do that in his new book which was ghost-written by Roddy Doyle.

In it he wrote that he regrets apologising at the time of row.

"I'm not sure why I f****** apologised. I just wanted to do the right thing. I was apologising for what had happened - that it had happened," said the Cork man.

And yesterday afternoon he seemed no closer to making amends with his former manager.

"Will I ever forgive him? I don't know, we'll see if we ever cross paths again. I'm sure I will, cross paths I mean," said Keane.

Keano came to the Aviva, armed with his beard, his corduroy jacket and his new book.

He cracked the odd smile, one with a nod to Roddy and another when the Tesco's accidental leaking of the book was mentioned.

For the rest of the time he went eyeball to eyeball with every journalist that dared to ask him a question and when he was away from the stage he was aided at all times by publishing professionals.

Ferguson (72) on the other hand, dressed in his tuxedo, and standing in front of hundreds, had nothing but warmth in his voice.

hnews@herald.ie

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