Rarely one to partake in interviews, I was really interested see what Roy Keane had to say in today's Sunday Times. Not only did I learn quite a bit about him but I also learnt a lot about Sir Alex Ferguson. Not so much him the person, but the person he becomes to those around him.
Having spent 12 1/2 years at Manchester United, it's fair to say that Keane grew to know him extremely well; both professionally and I would imagine, personally. But you get the feeling that he didn't really know the Scot until he acrimoniously left the club in 2005.
Much like Gary Neville; Keane was disliked by all fans other than United fans, but as a football lover you had to respect a man who always appeared to give his all for his team by setting the standard expected as their captain. (Violent moments aside!)
Although I wasn't surprised by the news that the club had tried to sue Keane following comments he made in an Irish newspaper, I was disappointed that that was the way the club and more importantly, Sir Alex, had chosen to deal with the matter. The same can be said of his recent dig at Keane, after his former captain expressed his opinions on some of the players in their last Champions League game against Basel. Keane was fulfilling his role as a pundit, so he had every right to state his opinion. And he shouldn't have had to worry about the consequences, should Sir Alex not agree with it. It is common knowledge that managers rarely agree with commentators, presenters or pundits unless their opinions are 100% positive regarding said managers' club.
As much as football is a business, surely grown men should be big enough to sort their differences out between themselves. Admittedly, Sir Alex was simply answering a question about Keane's comments, but his answer showed a snide side to his character that is not becoming of a football man of his stature. Keane's managerial ability was not relevant and the only reason to bring it up, was to belittle his former captain and encourage others to think that his opinions weren't worthy.
There have always been rumours that he rules Old Trafford with an iron fist, but it leaves me wondering if the level of power he seems to hold is somewhat unhealthy for all involved. Stories in the press about the infamous 'hairdryer' and the recent incident where he tried to ban a Press Association reporter for asking a question he didn't appreciate, all back up tales of a man who believes he is above all else. Not to mention the protracted feud with the BBC. Although interviews with TV stations are compulsory in the Premier League, yet he refused to do so while the club continued to pay the resulting and ever increasing fine. It's easy to believe Keane when he states that Sir Alex was always stressing the importance of 'power and control'.
When you compare the situation to someone such as Arsene Wenger, you can appreciate the differences. Although there are not many of his ex-players in management, it is easy to see that the majority of his former charges have nothing but good words to say about the Frenchman. They regularly return to the club to train and keep fit, while their careers are in transition. Thierry Henry is only the latest in a long line to do so. Even players now at other clubs still look to their old mentor for support, guidance and advice. Kolo Toure, now at Manchester City, admitted he had spoken to Wenger at great length during his recent suspension. I wonder how many ex-players genuinely feel they could or would do the same with Sir Alex?
Not only does David Walsh - the Sunday Times columnist - deserve credit for what is an enlightening piece. Keane also deserves kudos for being brave enough to come out and talk about a person who seems to strike fear amongst most within the world of football.
Although I learnt a lot, I also have a lot of questions. Like what is it about Ferguson that makes him feel he can live by a different set of rules to the rest of us? But more importantly, why do so many around him allow him to do so?
This is nothing to do with Sir Alex' success, as I would agree he is the greatest British manager of my generation. He has bred players, built teams and won trophies beyond most managers wildest dreams. And when he does leave the game, he will never be forgotten.
But like Roy Keane said: “I think you can be a great manager but you can also be a good man. I think it’s allowed.”