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AP/Press Association Images Ferguson and Keane famously fell out after the latter's controversial departure from Man United.
# Best of Enemies
Opinion: Irrelevant Keane and Ferguson should find dignity in silence
The ex-United duo have been trading digs for a number of years now.

A GNAWING NEED to remain relevant has damaged both Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson. Barely a day in the last month has gone by without some extract or other from Keane’s book or a snide soundbite from an accompanying press event. This week, too, we were treated to extracts from Ferguson’s updated autobiography.

What became apparent from the content of Ferguson’s new book is how far out of the loop he had become at Manchester United by the time the decision was taken to dispense with David Moyes as manager. He was in Aberdeen as the United board dealt with Moyes’ future and he admits he had no answer for Moyes when he sent him a text message wondering about his future.

Ferguson is right therefore to excuse himself from the Moyes exit. But his ignorance as to his fellow countryman’s plight only served to highlight the extent by which Ferguson had been distanced at board level.

He is also at pains to explain how he was only part of a collective decision to hire Moyes despite it being widely reported at the time that the Everton manager was Ferguson’s hand-picked successor. He is backing out now of that given the disastrous nature of the Moyes tenure at Old Trafford. Maybe it was so.

But it scarcely matters, who did or did not deal with Moyes, nor what role Ferguson had. The constant need to be heard, and the constant protestations that he was doing the right thing, are beginning to grow tiresome. Is he going to update his book every few months now, telling everyone what he’s been up to? Has he not got Facebook for that?

One aspect of this football life Ferguson was never prepared for was “ex-manager”. As his near omnipresence at Old Trafford pays testament to, he is not ready to let go. Among some fans, as a result, his standing is slipping.

He had to bat back rumours he’d been booed by United fans during the derby. Supporters resent the state of disrepair in which he left the squad — again an accusation denied by Ferguson in the book. The fans also resented his hovering over Moyes’s shoulder during a difficult time — the manager liked to see him coming, says Ferguson. Fans are also dismayed by his unwavering loyalty to the Glazer regime — supportive from day one, he says.

The leveraged buyout and the subsequent loading of debt onto United has been the one key issue for fans for the best part of a decade now. That Ferguson admitted in his book to being so entrenched in the camp seen by United fans as the enemy one is difficult for them to stomach.

Beckham Miami Wilfredo Lee Wilfredo Lee

(David Beckham also fell out with Ferguson during his time at United)

Keane, predictably, has had his say. He sneered at United fans in his book by claiming to have pocketed “a few pound” from the Glazer deal. David Beckham said plenty about the Glazers when he picked up a green and gold scarf from the Old Trafford turf and draped it around his neck when playing for AC Milan. Unlike Keane, his act showed solidarity with the supporters who applauded him warmly all those years. Keane’s “few pound” comment was designed to hurt.

He’s also had a go at the current team. “I felt it was a weak dressing room,” Keane said. “They should have done better and they did let [Moyes] down, without a shadow of a doubt.” Well frankly, Roy, who cares what you think?

From the flagship player of the Ferguson regime to permanent exile, Keane’s stock has sunk fast. Where once he could have been considered United manager in waiting, nowadays he’d attract sideways glances even attending a match there.

Keane’s motives for the book are obvious even if he’d like to imagine he’s been more subtle. His managerial career has been a washout. He quit Sunderland after Ellis Short had the temerity to ask him to move to the area full-time, something which Keane required of all potential Sunderland signings, while he openly admitted that his heart was never in Ipswich.

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Keane’s overt mission is to demonstrate to club owners and executives that he is capable of managing a top level football team. The last chapter in particular reads like a cover letter. All that “psycho” stuff from his playing days and early forays into management was an act, we are expected to believe. Here is the real Keane; more relaxed, more willing to let things go. That might be easier to believe if there weren’t curious statements and cheap digs in every chapter and every press event.

“When I look at United there’s just a lot of propaganda now,” Keane said. “A lot of nonsense gets spoken, a lot of ex-players now work for the club. These people are just: ‘It’s Man United, woah!’ It’s like Disneyland – Man United Land, with f**king Mickey Mouse running everywhere.”

Given what they achieved together at the club, it is unbelievable that, for United fans, Ferguson is not a figure beyond reproach and that Keane, their long-serving and successful captain, is widely ignored. But it is entirely of their own making.

For these two, it seems the alternative to what they are doing now is oblivion. And that is tough to tolerate for a pair who were on the top for so long and sought to dominate their surroundings.

Ferguson was all about exerting power and control as a manager and has failed to accept his diminished importance. He no longer “is”, in football terms, he “was”.

Eric Cantona is revered around Old Trafford. He rarely speaks on United matters. He rarely, indeed, speaks about football at all. He has preserved his mystique. He will forever be iconic for United fans. He will not muddy his legacy with constant jabbering and the need to be heard, like the man who replaced him as captain.

There is dignity in silence, these two may come to find.

- Peter Staunton.

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