The events that led to Roy Keane’s departure from Manchester United in 2005 have been well documented.
During an injury spell, Keane sat in with MUTV for analysis of United’s 4-1 defeat to Middlesborough and was critical of a number of players including John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher.
The segment was pulled by the club’s broadcaster after Alex Ferguson deemed it too explosive. However, reports surfaced that Ferdinand was subjected to Keane’s wrath as he questioned his wage packet after a poor performance.
Rio Ferdinand on Roy Keane’s Man United exit.
In his 2014 autobiography, ‘Rio: My Story’, the England centre-back refuted the claims after the group sat down to watch the tape of his analysis together. According to Ferdinand, Keane’s criticism was no harsher than his own thoughts on his performance.
“The reports said that Roy had been slamming a few of the young lads – Fletch, Kieran Richardson, Sheasy and me. Apparently, he had questioned my right to my wages for that performance.
“The next morning when we came in, he told the manager he wanted to speak to us and play the tape. We were all in the changing room and he said ‘Listen, I still wouldn’t mind the tape going on air. I would have been happy for it to be played. The papers have made a meal out of what was said on the video. I never mentioned anyone’s wages and I didn’t insult anybody.
“I judged the performances honestly and if you are not criticising yourselves in the same way, then you shouldn’t be at United.’
“It was just football analysis. I didn’t have a problem with it.”
Ferdinand: I don’t believe the media would have made a big deal out of the tape if it had been played.
According to Ferdinand, Keane did not cut Fletcher as deep as was reported. In fact, Keane often made it his business to look out for the young midfielder.
“He told Fletch that his missus could have tackled better than he did but he said it tongue-in-cheek. He and Fletch understand each other. Keaney kind of looked out for Fletch. He wanted Fletch to do well and that was the way he tried to get him to do better.
“I don’t believe the media would have made a big deal out of the tape if it had been played. There would not have been much of a story.”
Ferdinand: We were in shock.
Though there was no major repercussions in the dressing room as a result of the Cork man’s comments, Keane left the club with immediate effect.
He was on his way back from injury and the team were expecting him to play for the reserves the same week. Instead, Alex Ferguson informed the squad after training that Keane was no longer a Manchester United player much to the shock of Ferdinand and his teammates.
“We were in shock. I remember Ruud going ‘shit’. I never expected Keaney to go, no way. The gaffer didn’t explain anything to us. He just said they had come to an agreement for Keaney to move on.
“Despite what the press had said, I don’t think there would have been any dressing room unrest if Keaney had stayed. We all got on well with him. There’s nothing on that tape that he wouldn’t have said to our faces.
“Whenever the team went out, Keaney was there. He wouldn’t miss any dos we had as a group.”
“It was sad the way Keaney went. There’s always going to be that feeling that he left under a cloud. I hope the fans will remember him for all he did for the club and what a magnificent player he was.
“I thought he would be the next manager, would stay at United for another couple of years as a player and then get into the coaching side to learn his trade.”
Ferdinand maintains that the public perception of the controversial Irish man is not always representative of the player they knew in the dressing room.
When on the pitch, football was a serious business but outside of that, he was one of the “lads”.
“People have the impression that Keaney was a bit of a loner, but he wasn’t, he was one of the lads. He spoke to Giggsy and Gary Neville a lot and was good mates with Nicky Butt. Whenever the team went out, Keaney was there. He wouldn’t miss any dos we had as a group.
“In the changing room he was always the loudest, having a laugh but when it came down to the business of football, he was very serious.”
In December 2005, Keane signed for Celtic and five months later, a testimonial between the two clubs to honour his contribution to United.
Keane played a half for both teams and Ferdinand lined up against him in midfield for a portion of the game. Afterwards, he asked Keane to sign his jersey from the day and had it framed.
“The match was a fitting occasion for a player who have such a great to the club and the game. I reckon he was the most influential player there has ever been in the Premier League.”
Originally published on Jul 17, 2020.