Roy Keane definitely left an impression on the Manchester United boss.
While the two men are definitely not on speaking terms at the minute, there once was a time when Alex Ferguson chased Roy Keane’s signature for years.
After overcoming an initial period of homesickness following his move from Cobh Ramblers, the Corkonian made his professional league debut for Nottingham Forest against Liverpool at Anfield near the start of the 1990–91 season.
As Keane famously recalls, “Before my debut against Liverpool, he said (Clough) ‘I’ve seen you play for the reserves. You can control it, you can pass it and you can run. Just do those three things.’ That was my career.”
Keane did plenty more than that.
After scoring three goals in his debut season and helping Forest reach the FA Cup Final, Keane started to attract the attention of England’s top teams.
Despite playing in a struggling team that would later be relegated, Keane won Forest’s Player of The Year and was destined to leave the City Ground the end of the season.
In the documentary Have Boots Will Travel, Ferguson recalls how Keane left an instant impression on his mind.
“The first time I saw him was for Forest, I think it was in a midweek game against Man City at Maine Road. Of course, by that time he was building up a reputation in his very first season. He did really, really well. We were playing Forest two weeks after that game and they came to Old Trafford and beat us one-nil. I’ll always remember the kick-off, the ball went back to Robson and Roy absolutely cemented him. I said ‘the bloody cheek of him, you know? How dare he come here and tackle like that.”
With Forest struggling in the league and looking increasingly likely to be relegated, Keane negotiated a new contract with a relegation escape clause, something that Fergie was very aware of.
In fact, when Neil Webb joined Forest in November 1992, Ferguson wanted Keane to be included as part of the deal. Given the fact that Forest were right in the middle of a relegation scrap, Clough said no.
In another interview, Fergie recalls just how good Keane was when he made his debut at Old Trafford for Forest.
“Throughout the match, his persistence and courage were phenomenal. I said ‘Oooh, this is a player,’ even though he annoyed me!,” said the legendary Manchester United manager.
As for Keane’s future, Fergie chased the Irishman for two and a half years but things accelerated when Blackburn expressed their interest and got a verbal agreement from the midfielder.
Originally, on a Friday evening, Keane agreed on a contract with Kenny Dalglish and shook hands on a deal to join Blackburn.
On the Sunday, Alex Ferguson gave Keane a call to see if he could come to Manchester for a chat in his house.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You can view Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson’s views on the move here.
Clip via Waleed Goda