The picture of a stony-faced Keane comprehensively blanking Jose Mourinho’s attempt to shake hands with him and Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert before the final whistle in Chelsea’s recent 3-0 Premier League victory has already become one of the iconic images of the new season.
And yesterday in Dublin, after the public launch of his autobiography, Keane didn’t attempt to hide the full extent of his contempt for Mourinho’s premature approach.
“The game is still going on, it’s disgraceful,” he said. “I’ve seen him doing it to other managers. It is a disgrace. The game is still going on. You wouldn’t do that on a Sunday morning. You would get knocked out.”
Asked — somewhat unnecessarily — if he thought the Chelsea boss had been disrespectful, the Villa assistant manager snapped: “What do you think? That’s a stupid question. Yeah.”
With a number of Manchester-based reporters in Dublin for yesterday’s event, it was probably inevitable that Keane’s already well-ventilated falling out with Ferguson would once again dominate.
Ironically, when Keane at one point spoke about people’s fear of confronting Ferguson he used precisely the kind of words which many would apply to the Corkman.
“You have to defend yourself,” said Keane. “A lot of people are sitting around here [at the media table] and people are frightened of him. You can’t go against him because you’ll never be allowed speak to him again but, thank God, I don’t have them problems. Why do people let him get away with that? People sit back and are frightened to death of him. I think a lot of managers would probably be intimidated by him [too], probably bow to him. A lot of managers are heavily influenced by him, of course. [Roberto] Martinez reckons he was misquoted a few years ago that Ferguson had his disciples. He obviously does.”
Asked about Ferguson’s comment in his book that the hardest part of Keane’s body was his tongue, the latter enjoyed a momentary grin.
“Well...what do you think? (Laughter). I kick pretty hard. I think it was a cheap dig. He was never critical when we were winning trophies and he was getting his new contracts, getting this named after him [and] Sir this. He was not pulling me or other players [aside], saying, ‘listen, you need to relax a bit’. That was the game and I appreciate the game. The game finished but it was all the carry-on afterwards.”
Keane admitted he had turned down an invitation to the unveiling of Ferguson’s statue outside Old Trafford and is certain in his own mind that it was not a conciliatory gesture made by his former manager.
“I don’t think he invited me, it was probably his committee or his son or whatever but why would I go to that? That was all power and control. So, what? He comes in and we’re all standing [makes applause gesture] and he’s, ‘I’ve got you where I want you’.”
It’s pointed out to Keane that former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy did attend the event.
“But I’m not Ruud van Nistelrooy.”
But he fell out with Ferguson badly too.
“Not as badly as me.”
Earlier at the event at the Aviva Stadium, Keane had made it clear his main problem with Ferguson relates to what the former manager has said about him — and other players — since the Corkman’s departure from Old Trafford.
“When you have worked with somebody for such a long time...obviously we had our disagreements and I departed, and I have no problems with that, it’s fine. It’s afterwards when people start coming out with all sorts of nonsense. For Alex Ferguson, not just to criticise myself, but other players who were part of a team that brought some good days to lots of supporters, for him to criticise that, when you think of what he made out of it — he made millions of pounds out of it. He got his statues, he’s got his stand named after him. To come back and criticise...”
Asked if he could ever forgive Ferguson, Keane offered a long, contemplative pause before replying.
“Good question. I’m not sure, I’m not sure. Football is a small world and, eventually, you will cross paths with people again. Whether I would ever bump into him or not, whether it be at a game or sometimes there are conferences going on...Will I ever forgive him? I don’t know. Listen, I don’t know. We’ll see if we ever cross paths again. I’m sure we will...”
“Cross paths, I mean.”
“When I was playing League of Ireland, that was part of the show. When I was at Cobh, straight after a match you went for a few pints. So I never felt that was wrong. But as you get a bit older you pick up injuries, get speaking to foreign players, expecting and hoping to learn. You think ‘maybe that’s not the way to be going’, out and about,gallivanting. I think it’s great now and I would not change it. If I was 19 years of age and someone (had) said to me after a game that you best go home to eat some carbohydrates for fuel for next week, (my reaction would have been), ‘You need locking up, I’m going out!’”
“There was some days I’d be meeting Roddy and I wouldn’t be in the mood. You’re probably not surprised to hear that. Roddy had a way about him: he’s likeable, quite laidback, it was like a therapy session. I should have been charging him. But it wasn’t a case of sitting down and crying on his shoulder type thing, don’t think it was like that either. But I thought Roddy did a good job. He got the snippets, the good stuff, the bad stuff. That was the whole idea.”
“I played against him, I know what he’s like. What’s he like? (Pause). Weak...average player. Sneaky? That’s being polite. Where was his response? (Haaland tweeted – and then deleted – comparison pix of the bearded Keane and Saddam Hussein). Twitter? I’ll say no more.”
“When I was a player the music didn’t bother me in terms of getting motivated so I don’t think I have a song that I could throw at you that would get me going. But I don’t think it would be Abba. (Reminded that in the book he reveals he bought Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’): I was 12!”
“The chance to get back involved with Ireland was fantastic for me from a selfish point of view. It’s just rekindled what I love about the game because whatever has gone on about the book — the fights, the disagreements — I still love the game of football.”
“Obviously Ferguson had friends in the media. There are a few of them here today. I can spot them a mile away. He was pals with them and he put little snippets about me out there. It was lies, basic lies. So I had to come out and say ‘listen . .’ And now is the time. I had to bide my time and I’ve waited long enough. So there you go.”
“I’m not looking for plaudits for that. I didn’t go into his room saying ‘I think this is wrong’. That was just a conversation you have with a manager, particularly when you are a senior player. It wasn’t a case of me going in and saying ‘listen, I think you need to have a look at yourself’. It was ‘listen, I’ve been told you’re not going to win this’. It wasn’t a case of me sticking my nose in someone’s business. I was in his office but if people think I was in his office every week having little chats, they’re sadly mistaken. There was five, six situations in my 12-and-a-bit years at United that I was actually having a one-to-one with him.”
“The things I learned the most as a player were from the lads I played with. The lads at Man Utd were absolutely fantastic. Just because there were disagreements – obviously my situation with Peter (Schemeichel), which again was highlighted in the book –(nevertheless) the days I had with them lads at United were probably the best days of my life. They were absolutely fantastic lads and we were winning trophies. So for people to try to tarnish that and have little digs, that’s why you have to come out fighting. I said ’enough’s enough’.”