Just What ‘Class’ is Roy Keane, Then?
Apart from a working class hero, that is?
One doubts anyone at Manchester United spared a thought for Roy Keane in Moscow 2008, when the reborn post-Keano United finally lifted Fergie’s second European Cup.
Famously, heart-breakingly, Roy had never truly got his hands on the first Cup either, having typically sacrificed himself for the team in Turin. Thus it was that Roy joined a very exclusive club, alongside Denis Law, Duncan Edwards and Bryan Robson: undeniably world-class United players who never lifted the greatest prize.
You’ve seen where this is going now, haven’t you? Because there’s something wrong with that paragraph’s last sentence, at least in Alex Ferguson’s eyes. Roy Keane was not “undeniably world-class“, y’see.
He wasn’t world class at all, according to his manager. You probably read it in black ‘n’ white yesterday, as the latest wave of book-flogging guff cascaded from Fergie’s lips into the prints. No, the only four of his players Alex now considers to have been world class were Scholes, Giggs, Cantona and Ronaldo.
Now, then: what do all four have in common? None ever seriously fell out with Fergie; none has ever slagged him off since leaving the O.T. dressing room; none ever challenged his right to reign untrammelled.
And who was left out of the reckoning, despite being universally recognised as being at least equally worthy of such consideration? True, the omission of Bryan Robson could be explained by the fact that he had just moved past his world-class peak when Fergie arrived at United. But now consider these legends: Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Ruud Van Nistelrooy — and some would add Beckham too, although I wouldn’t. What do those four have in common? Rather spikier relations with Fergie, both whilst players and since — and in Keane’s case, the spikes are still very much on display. All four were prepared to challenge, argue back, resist; all four might be seen to have paid the price for such lèse-majesté.
In Keane’s case, Fergie’s true motivation is embarrassingly obvious. Remember: he has included both Scholes and Giggs in that ‘world class’ list, both of whom were well past their peak by 2005. Yet Fergie was still happy to declare Keane his greatest ever player that year i.e. therefore better than Giggs and Scholes ever were, even in their pomp.
So how can he now deny world class status to the man he had so frequently admitted was the best of them all? I’d like to think that when Roy read the papers yesterday, he would just have smirked handsomely, shaken his head ruefully, and muttered “that’s yer man, right there.”
Legendarily self-critical, Keane may even have recognised something he and Fergie share: the ability to bear a grudge beyond the point where it starts to become self-destructive.
Roy has never shown any sign of being a sentimentalist — bar those ten seconds of tears in his car after being fired — and one imagines he would brush off this obvious slight as just one more outrageous arrow from a sling that’s past its sell-by date.
We’ve all now endured three successive autumns swamped with Fergie book extracts, promotional brouhaha, and unhelpful supporting interviews, all to the unmistakable soundtrack of a money-making barrel-bottom being scraped, as history is furiously rewritten over seemingly endless iterations to suit a personal agenda.
Remember when Fergie insisted Moyes was the one he wanted to succeed him? Then, a year later, once Moyes hit the rocks, it was suggested he would actually have chosen Mourinho or Ancelotti if possible?
And now we are told his number one choice was really Guardiola all along? What’s in the bag for Christmas 2016’s stocking-filler, Alex?
Are there any lucrative layers left on the onion to be peeled and revealed? Any more targets to have a sly pop at, any scores left to settle? Still, fairplay to the fella: he could give Dickens a run for his money in stringing out a saga over as many fee-paying episodes as possible.
Of course, every time he opens up yet another tidbit treasure trove for the publishers, a little bit of us dies.
By “us” I mean a certain kind of hardcore Red. The kind of Red who knows when it’s time for someone to leave the stage; who knows when someone’s taking the mick; and who, above all, knows that Roy Keane should be universally regarded and respected as ‘world class’ for as long as the very world exists.”
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