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'Roy Keane is not a number two. Roy Keane is a leader of men.'

Ince feels his former team-mate has the thick skin to be Manchester United boss some day.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

PAUL INCE EXPECTS Roy Keane to return to management as soon as the right job comes along — and admits that he can see the Corkman in charge of Manchester United some day.

For the next 10 days, Keane will be focused on helping Martin O’Neill and Ireland prepare for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland.

But Ince was full of praise for his former team-mate during a visit to Dublin and insisted: “Roy Keane is not a number two. Roy Keane is a leader of men.”

The pair spent two seasons together at Old Trafford but never came to blows despite their fiery personalities. “If we did, I’d win it,” Ince joked.

Ince was sold to Inter Milan in the summer of 1995 while Keane famously left in acrimonious circumstances 10 years later. The disintegration of his personal relationship with manager Alex Ferguson has been well-documented but Ince believes that Keane’s perfectionism combined with his thick skin makes him a perfect candidate for the United hotseat.

“To be Man United manager, you need broad shoulders and to take a lot of criticism,” Ince said at the launch of Carlsberg’s #JoinTheGreats campaign on Thursday.

Roy has broad shoulders and he is mentally tough. Things don’t affect him. He has a poker face but he doesn’t show if things are affecting him.

“He is mentally tough and there is no reason why Roy couldn’t go back to Manchester United.”

Ferguson’s presence on the United board is an obvious obstacle in the immediate future. He and Keane have traded public barbs through books and media interviews to the point that they are barely on speaking terms.

“Well, you can achieve much without talking,” Ince added. ”Look at Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham! They never spoke for three or four years but they played together and won many things.

“Roy Keane has a — what can I say — an ego. We all had egos at Man United because that’s what made us who we were.

“We were arrogant in a way. Maybe you can take it too far. We were arrogant because we knew that we were a good team.

We had these egos: myself, Peter Schmeichel, Keane, Robson, Cantona. Egos, that’s what made Manchester United such a good side.

“Sometimes it can go pear-shaped. That’s the case with Alex and Roy. But Roy is Roy.”

Paul Ince Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Keane’s first foray into the dugout was a success as he guided Sunderland to the Premier League but he hasn’t held a manager’s job since he was sacked by Ipswich in January 2011.

Ince disagrees that his often abrasive style should be toned down to suit the modern game.

“When you’re dealing with Premiership players, you expect them to be like players you played with but the mindset is completely different. To adjust to that was hard for me and I kind of struggled with that.

You do hear people say, ‘Roy rules by fear’. Maybe that’s Roy and the way he is. Maybe that’s how he feels he can be a success in what he does and he did it at Sunderland. I don’t know.

“You have to be mentally tough to deal with someone like Roy Keane and if he’s having a go at me and I’m playing for Roy Keane, it’s not a problem – I’ll respond and bounce back.

He added: “Whatever Roy does, he does it to the best of his abillity and he has high standards. He is going to carry on and be a top, top manager.

“I think you have got to remember what Keaney did when he went to Sunderland when they were in the Championship, taking them into the Premier League. That was an unbelievable feat.

“I speak to Roy and he does want to get back in [to management], but he wants to get back in at the right establishment with the right project.

“You cannot lose people like him from the game. He knows so much about football, no matter what your cup of tea is.”

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Manchester United v Barcelona - Old Trafford Keane and Ince celebrate with Mark Hughes. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

When he left Aston Villa last year, Keane said that he wanted to focus on his Ireland duties but Ince is not convinced that an international job — even as O’Neill’s eventual successor — is the right fit.

“Maybe he thinks that when Martin’s done, then he’s the next one to step up. That’s the logic I see in it.

Whether Keaney can do that, well … Keaney is one of those people whom I think needs to be in football day to day.

“International football is hard because it’s once every month or two months. I think Keaney would like to be on the training ground every day.

“So I am not sure but it would be great if he was Ireland manager. It would be fantastic, would it not?”

Carlsberg officially launched their 2015 #JOINTHEGREATS campaign this week, giving 20 Irish football fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to play on Liverpool FC’s hallowed Anfield turf with their mate. Enter via Carlsberg Football’s Facebook page.

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Niall Kelly

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