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Comment & Analysis

It’s about time somebody stood up to Fergie



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HAVING a public war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson probably isn’t the best idea when you’re looking to get back on the managerial-merry-go round but it’s the route Roy Keane has chosen to go down.

When the former Manchester United captain gave his thoughts on United’s exit from the Champions League Group stage at the hands of Basle, while working as a pundit for ITV, I did think it might open a can of worms. Fergie isn’t a big fan of the media anyway so when one of his former players criticised his team I expected a reaction.

When questioned on Keane’s comments, Ferguson reacted by having a dig a Keane’s own managerial record and then went on to write in the United matchday programme that the team “will take stick from critics and even from people we thought were perhaps on our side”.

While Keane was willing to accept Ferguson’s first comment the second was a step too far. The Cork native played at Old Trafford for 12-and-a-half years and was adored by the fans so having felt that the Scotsman was attempting to get the fans to look differently at him he decided to take action in the form of an interview with David Walsh of the Sunday Times where he outlined the many issues he has with his former boss.

I don’t agree with some of the things that Keane did during his playing career, especially not playing at the World Cup in 2002, but I do respect the fact that he speaks his mind rather than trying to keep everyone sweet and it’s about time someone stood up to Ferguson.

The world of soccer is pretty close nit. The old ‘jobs-for-the-boys network’ is prevalent and if you raise your head up and speak out you can expect to be cut off for a while.

Keane does see some of his former teammates from time to time and has turned to punditry in order to raise his profile again but I don’t think he will ever be in the middle of the soccer family.

After his latest musings on Ferguson he is yet again standing alone but that’s where he seems comfortable. Keane doesn’t take the easy option of saying the right thing all the time, unlike a lot of former players and other managers who he feels “act like lapdogs around Ferguson”. This deference to Ferguson is something which has annoyed many soccer fans but to hear it from Keane, the former club captain, is quite incredible.

I’m not a Manchester United fan so haven’t taken any joy from watching them win league titles and various cup competitions through the years. I’ve got a lot of respect for what Ferguson has done and the style in which he likes to play the game but as an individual I’ve never really warmed to him.

The silly two arms in the air celebration when United grab yet another added-time goal is very annoying, as is the tapping of his wrist watch when he feels the referee should be ending the game.

As Keane stated in the interview, Ferguson has “power and control” at United and it often appears the FA and the Premier League as well and as a result it’s difficult to like him too much.

The United fans sing a song about being able to do what they want because they are Manchester United and I always get the impression when listening to Ferguson that he feels he can do and act however he wants because he is in charge of United and whatever he says goes.

Last month when Ferguson celebrated 25 years in charge at Old Trafford he was lavished with praise from all angles; he appeared to be something of a saint and then out comes Keane with his views on the Glaswegian.

I don’t imagine football’s chairmen will be banging on Keane’s door anytime soon, he is still seen by many as something of a loose canon but the game would be a far more interesting place with him back on the touchline – I’m not sure if he will be receiving a welcome back card from Fergie though.



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