Keane v Vieira: the side plot of Keane v Fergie?

Guest blogger, lifelong Man Utd fan Martin Richardson reflects on the recent ITV Keane v Vieira special, and the former United skippers ongoing feud with Sir Alex Ferguson.

It had been a while since I thought about ex United captain Roy Keane’s all-action style, until the recent ITV special devoted to his on field battle with former Arsenal skipper, Patrick Vieira.

I enjoyed the programme although I couldn’t help think that the battle between Vieira and Keane was somewhat of a side plot.

The real story was the recent Alex Ferguson biography, in which he launched a scathing attack on Keane’s destructive personality.

With United’s dip in form of late, this feature length interview came as a welcome distraction and a glance back to our recent history.

I remember the battles between Keane and Vieira like they were yesterday. Flying tackles, squaring up to each other, continued discussions way after the whistle had gone.

I also remember the on-going battle between Wenger and Ferguson on the touch line and in the interviews after the game.

It always made me laugh that Wenger had not seen the incident, and whether or not Ferguson thought the official had got right depended on whether it benefited his team.

Keane was unstable and could not be trusted

The unwavering stance that Ferguson had that his players were fair at all times and other factors were at fault for United losing made his comments about Keane in his book all the harder to comprehend.

Ferguson implied that Keane was unstable and could not be trusted in the dressing room. With so many impressionable young players at the club, there was only one option, Keane must go.

It has always been made clear that no one is bigger than the club, except perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson.

With so much anticipation surrounding the book and the daily snippets in the press, there was only going to be one outcome; bad blood.

The Keane v Vieira programme tried to stick to the original billing but with no offence to Vieira, this really was just a further insight in to Roy Keane the man. One of the few players that ever dared to confront Ferguson and question his methods.

Roy Keane’s departure is the most explosive incident of Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford.

The two men’s’ account of the circumstances differ entirely. During the ITV interview, it was obvious that it is still a sore point for Keane and one that we’ll never really know the full story. Both accounts will have some truth in them, and the reality is likely to be somewhere in the middle.

Interestingly, Vieira and Keane both left their respective clubs in the same year, with the Arsenal skipper joining Juventus and then Inter Milan, and Keane joining Celtic.

You could say Fergie got rid of Keane after getting all he could out of the player, a claim that Keane dismissed in the programme.

Vieira won the World Cup, European Championship, Premier League and FA Cup, as well as a whole host of Italian trophies, although the agenda of the Keane v Vieira programme is such that this personal haul of awards is immaterial.

As they look back over their battles on and off the pitch, most famously in the Highbury tunnel, you can see in Keane’s eyes that the memories were still as fresh as ever.

It wouldn’t have surprised me if Roy had launched himself across the table and two footed Vieira in the chest for disagreeing on the tunnel incident.

Snub of Fergie’s Fledglings

They are then asked to select their two all-time United and Arsenal sides. This really just shows how much Ferguson has angered Roy after their acrimonious feud. No place for Scholes, Giggs or Gary Neville.

It’s difficult to select just eleven players from a career spanning twelve years, especially when you have played with Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistlerooy etc.

But it was clear that Keane deliberately overlooked every member of the famous ‘Class of 92’. Fergie’s boys. Players who never stepped out of line, respected the managers’ decision, didn’t rock the boat and probably disagreed with Roy’s views during the latter phase of his United career.

The bitterness was most obvious when asked who the best manager they had had in their careers.

A tough decision for Vieira, with his success at club level in England, Italy and France and of course being a World Cup winner. But I believe he truly meant it when he chose Arsene Wenger.

When most would’ve expected the answer to be Alex Ferguson, Keane’s response was Brian Clough. He spent three under Clough at Forest and immediately became a regular in the side. Keane speaks fondly of Clough in his autobiography, mentioning that he was always granted time off when he needed to go back home to Ireland.

Ultimately Keane is eternally grateful to Clough for giving him the start to his career in football that he feared may pass him by.

Had Keane left Forest and joined any other side than United, and not enjoyed a glittering career of titles and trophies, then maybe his choice of Clough would be justified. But the fact that he won so much under Ferguson at Old Trafford make him snubbing his former boss difficult to believe.

Personally, Keane was never one of my all-time favourite United players and would probably not make my all-time United XI. I prefer the flair players, the goal scorers and game changers.

However, he does share some of the characteristics with my hero and favourite ever United player, Eric Cantona.

The passion and determination shown from both endeared them instantly to the United faithful. They both played integral parts in United’s domination of the English league.

Unfortunately (although very entertaining now looking back), the thing most people will say they have in common was their temper.

Having witnessed both players ‘lose the plot’ on live television and as a spectator, it’s clear to me that they both have the tendency to explode.

This is a trait that can come in handy if used in the appropriate manner but very rarely did these two use their temper to the benefit of Manchester United.

It may appear as though this article is designed as an opportunity to have a go at Roy Keane in the wake of his now public bust up with Ferguson, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Keane is and always will be a United legend. I have always respected him for the way he conducted himself on and off the pitch. Without condoning violence, I believe that Keane believes in right and wrong, and serving out his retribution on the pitch.

Never was this so blatant than when he effectively ended Alf Inge Haland’s career. Keane allowed the hate build up inside him for four years until he got his chance for revenge, after Haland had been his tormentor when he broke his cruciate ligaments.

Keane always set high standards for himself and for those around him. If those standards weren’t being met, then he wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion.

He also led us to the Treble in 1999 and for that United fans will always hold him in high esteem.

His feud with Ferguson is the only thing stands in the way of his on-going dispute with the fans being laid to rest.

You could argue that both men are cut from the same cloth. Born winners striving for perfection. Defiant until the end, natural born winners and Manchester United legends. But don’t expect the Roy Keane stand to be opening any time soon!

»crosslinked«