May 25, 2024

Roy Keane – End of Relationship With Sir Alex Ferguson

Continued from Alex Ferguson


It is widely accepted that Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane were kindred spirits. Both were driven men with a passion for winning. One of the reasons that they got on so well together for so long is that they shared common goals and agreed on a common approach on how to achieve those goals. Ferguson thought so highly of Keane’s ability as footballer that the Scot made many concessions to the Cork man during Keane’s career when he got out of line.

Whatever about behind the the scenes, Ferguson always supported Keane in public even in circumstances that had the potential to damage Ferguson’s own public credibility. He took this to the extreme when he absurdly defended Roy Keane when he admitted that he had deliberately set out to injure Alf-Inge Haaland. The bond between Ferguson and Keane appeared to be unshakeable – but only so long as Keane continued to deliver on the pitch and so long as his respect for Ferguson remained in tact.

Red Mist on the Horizon

On 18 November 2005 Roy Keane left Manchester United under a cloud. The United team was just eleven matches into the 2005/06 season and already 10 points, in fourth place, behind the leaders Chelsea. Such powers of English soccer, Wigan and Bolton Wanderers, were ahead of United. United had not won the premier league since the 2002/03 season. Chelsea had won the league the previous season and looked set to dominate English soccer for years. Keane had been injured against Liverpool FC in mid-September and his mood was not good. Apparently Keane shared the view, as expressed by a number of Manchester United fans, that Ferguson had delegated too much power over team affairs to coach Carlos Queiroz.

Keane Slates Team Mates

Jim White’s book, Manchester United, The Autobiography, outlines the circumstances of Keane’s parting of the ways with United. While he was in Dubai at the end of October 2005 recovering from injury, Keane had watched an abject performance by his team in a 4-1 defeat to Middlesboro.

“On his return from the break, he was still fuming. After training one day, the players found him waiting for them in the dressing room. His verbal ambush was unrestrained.”[Page 395]. After telling the players what he thought of them to their faces, Keane then fulfilled a commitment to appear as the guest on the MUTV show Play the Pundit. During the interview Keane lashed out at the United players in general and he identified six players by name that in his view, weren’t performing up to Manchester United’s standards. The show was pre-recorded and when United’s Chief Executive, David Gill, saw it he had the explosive broadcast pulled.

Keane and Sir Alex Clash

The fact that the show had not been broadcast was irrelevant to Sir Alex Ferguson. One of his cardinal rules had been broken by his captain. Publicly criticising anyone or anything in the club was taboo. Roy Keane had perhaps benefited most from this approach by Ferguson and he was now, in effect, challenging his manager’s authority. Sir Alex arranged to have the tape played to the United players with Keane present.

According to Jim White, when Ferguson (who hadn’t seen the tape) heard Keane’s comments “…steam began to emerge from his ears. When it was over he accused Keane of ranting, no longer thinking like the leader of Manchester United, of losing the key to the dressing room door.”[Page 396]. Keane responded by accusing Sir Alex Ferguson of devoting too much time to his horse the Rock of Gibraltar.

Carlos Queiroz appealed for loyalty But Keane accused him of being “a f***ing waste of space” and told him he was hardly in a position to preach loyalty having gone to Real Madrid without a second thought, only to return “with his tail between his legs” when he was fired. According to White this was too much for Ferguson. From this moment on Ferguson knew that there was no way that Keane could stay with the club. Ferguson signalled this after the Champions League game against Lille in early November 2005 when he impinged upon his own sacred rule.

Sir Alex Ferguson implicitly criticised his captain in public. In Daniel Taylor’s book, This is the One, he quotes Alex Ferguson thus; “Anything we do at this club should remain indoors…We can’t allow United players to be demolished by criticism. Young lads like Darren Fletcher are the future of our club and we do not want to destroy them.”[Page 90].

Keane in Another Training Camp Bust-up

In another parallel with the Saipan incident the clear-the-air team meeting had been presaged by an earlier training camp row in a sunny climate. Ferguson determined that in order to halt Chelsea’s ascendancy United should begin pre-season training earlier than usual.

In his book, Roy Keane: Red Man Walking, Frank Worrall outlines Keane’s unhappiness with this. He had to break off his holiday with his wife and children in Portugal, to join the United squad in the Algarve, also in Portugal. Ferguson and Queiroz had decided that the players could bring their families and that training would be confined to the mornings.

Keane was deeply unhappy with this arrangement – either it was full-on training or not. Worrall says that “Keane and Queiroz clashed…over the swimming pool at the United complex – with Keane complaining that it was too cold for his children to play in!”[Page 170].

Keane resumed his family holiday elsewhere in Portugal. Ferguson was furious and Keane was left out of United’s pre-season trip to the Far East. The official reason given was that Keane had a hamstring injury. After this training camp bust-up Roy Keane played just six more matches for United. He picked up an injury in the fifth Premier League match of the season against Liverpool – his last appearance for United (testimonial aside).

Parallels with Saipan Incident

The similarities to his departure from Manchester United with his departure from Republic of Ireland squad in Saipan are quite striking.

* Keane is feeling moody, belligerent and is carrying niggly injuries

* He is unhappy with the training arrangements and has public bust-up with the coaching staff

* Goes public with his criticisms (albeit the MUTV interview wasn’t actually broadcast but the intent was there)

* Manager calls a team meeting to air grievances

* Keane goes on a rant that includes unacceptable comments that undermine his manager’s authority

Keane Leaves Manchester United

Throughout his Roy Keane’s autobiography he emphasises his gratitude to Ferguson for publicly supporting him and never criticising him in public. Ferguson’s credo is that any criticisms that have to be made are always done behind closed doors. Manchester United does not wash it’s dirty linen in public. It would appear that Keane had learned nothing from the Saipan affair because according to Worrall “Roy is surprised and angry that the club overreacted so much to his words…In his view, he just told it as he saw it – he did nothing wrong.”[Page 204].

This is extraordinary as Keane was the main beneficiary of Ferguson’s protective and restrictive approach to public criticisms of anything to do with United by insiders. It was unforgivable by Ferguson for his team captain to break the cardinal rule. This was just too much for Ferguson. Keane had to go and on 18 November 2005 Roy Keane departed Manchester United forever.

Interesting Footnote

Three years before his departure from Old Trafford Keane described Alex Ferguson as, “…the perfect manager for me.”[Keane: The Autobiography – Page 215]. Three years after he left Manchester United Keane was quoted as saying that, “…[Brian Clough] was a genius, an absolute genius, and certainly the best manager I played under, without a shadow of a doubt.”[Daily Mirror – 27 Aug 2008].

Roy Keane – Walker

Back to Saipan Affair Table of Contents – Irish Football

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Saipan Table of Contents Roy Keane & Eamon Dunphy
Saipan Introduction Roy Keane & Cork
Methodology Keane’s Aversion to Being Away From Home
Saipan Conclusions Roy Keane’s Relationship with Ireland
Roy Keane – Mick McCarthy Relationship Roy Keane – Zenith Data Systems Cup
Roy Keane Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Jack Charlton Relationship
Mick McCarthy Version of Saipan Incident 1 Roy Keane’s Flawed Character
Mick McCarthy Account of Saipan Incident 2 Roy Keane’s Good Character
Niall Quinn Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Footballer
Jason McAteer Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Team Captain
Matt Holland Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Family Man
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Backdrop Roy Keane & Faking Injury
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Issues Roy Keane – Bad Boy
Keane / McCarthy Boston Row 1992 Roy Keane – Career Lows
Keane Misses Iran Playoff Game Roy Keane – Red Cards
Keane Misses Niall Quinn Testimonial Roy Keane – Cruciate Injury
Countdown to Saipan Incident Roy Keane & Alf-Inge Haaland
Roy Keane Saipan Tirade at Mick McCarthy Roy Keane & Gareth Southgate Red Card
Roy Keane / Tom Humphries Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Alan Shearer Red Card
Keane / Humphries Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane / Alex Ferguson Relationship 1
Roy Keane / Irish Times Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Sir Alex Ferguson 2
Roy Keane / Paul Kimmage Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Charity
Keane / Kimmage Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane & Autobiography Contradictions
Roy Keane / Sunday Independent Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Contradictions
Roy Keane / Tommie Gorman Interview 1 Roy Keane – Integrity
Roy Keane / Tommy Gorman Interview 2 Roy Keane – International Matches
Roy Keane / RTE Interview 3 Roy Keane – Football Record
FAI Involvement in Saipan Affair Roy Keane & Sandwiches
Saipan Reaction of Irish Players Roy Keane – Walker
Mick McCarthy – ‘crap player, crap manager’ Saipan – Pacific Island
Roy Keane / Mick McCarthy Playing Record I Keano – The Musical
Colin Healy – Forgotten Man of Saipan Roy Keane – Football Manager
Saipan Ten Years Later Roy Keane’s Dog Triggs
Roy Keane’s Autobiography Saipan Bibiliography


Roy Keane – View Seven Years After Saipan
Football Quotes on Saipan


Triggs – The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog
Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals – Irish 2002 World Cup Squad – Irish Group Matches
Ireland V Cameroon – Ireland V Germany – Ireland V Saudi Arabia – Ireland V Spain