Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to hand him the iconic number seven shirt to stop David Beckham from having it. Beckham wore the shirt during his 10-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, which had previously been worn by Old Trafford greats George Best, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona.
The former Red Devil said in his new autobiography, The Second Half, that former boss Ferguson did not want Beckham to take the shirt after Cantona left the club in 1997. The Irishman said Scot Ferguson called him into his office and told him he wanted him to wear the shirt. “I said, ‘No, I’m not bothered.’ And he said, ‘I know Becks will f**** want it and I don’t want him to have it,'” Keane wrote.
The official launch of the book is set to go ahead tomorrow (Thursday) despite the fact numerous copies are in circulation after they were accidentally put on sale earlier this week. UK supermarket chain Tesco has already been forced to apologize and has launched an investigation to find out how one of its stores in Manchester committed the blunder on Monday.
A number of national newspapers in the UK subsequently published the more sensationalist extracts from the book. Other revelations made by Keane include a drink-fueled fight between him and former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel during a pre-season tour of Asia.
Keane had a distinguished, if controversial, 12-and-a-half-years at Old Trafford. Despite not playing in the Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in 1999, he is generally regarded as putting in the best performance of his career in the semi-final second leg against Juventus in Turin. United were trailing 2-0 in the game having drawn 1-1 at Old Trafford. Keane pulled one back for United and then was booked, meaning he had to sit out the final with Paul Scholes. However, Keane’s leadership in that match and perfect temperament after the booking made sure United made the final, even if it was to be without him.
Nevertheless, Keane’s often acerbic tongue and strong views on how players should conduct themselves has often landed him in trouble. The Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland assistant coach still appears on UK broadcaster ITV for Champions League matches. Presenter Adrian Chiles often appears to be scared to ask the former United man a question in case he scowls and barks back at him. However, the media loves Keane’s reactions and now write up his comments immediately after he makes them. Writing what pundits say was not the norm before Keane joined the ranks.
Keane is also often regarded as being extra harsh on United whenever he is covering a game, appearing to put individuals down during and after matches. This latest revelation he has made about Ferguson and Beckham is just the tip of the iceberg, with more strong views and opinions expected when the book officially hits the stands tomorrow. Expect a riposte from Ferguson in the coming weeks.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd