Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Sir Alex Ferguson has only signed one alter-ego. One man who could match his own fierce and driven will to win. A leader of men, capable of stirring magnificent effort from those around him.
Keane was Robert De Niro to Ferguson’s Martin Scorsese, or perhaps more aptly, Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden to Edward Norton’s narrator in Fight Club. The first rule of Keano, for Sir Alex Ferguson, is you do not say anything nice about Keano.
It is sad but somehow inevitable that they would turn their guns on each other. You can’t put two men who want to win that much in such close proximity to each other for that long without an implosion.
They now stand like a Jedi Knight and his former apprentice, arguing over which of them has turned to the dark side.
However, how the story ended is not the part of this particular narrative I am here to focus on. I come to praise Keano and Fergie, not to bury them. Once upon a time, their relationship functioned to engender fierce loyalty and exceptional determination.
In Keane’s autobiography, he expressed a wish that the performance in 1999 in Turin will not be remembered as the high point of his career. Well, sorry, Roy, but you shouldn’t have set such an impossibly high bar.
Football is a team sport, but sometimes an individual embodies the team, and in return the team finds itself embodying him. And it happened on the day that Roy Keane dragged Manchester United, kicking and screaming, past the might of Juventus and into the Champions League final.
That he was unable to play in that final is agonisingly fitting, for Roy Keane is a complex and tragic hero, and things can never be easy for him.
Ferguson signing Roy Keane was the beginning of something magical, but perhaps the kind of magic that should be spelled with a "K" to bring an extra hint of darkness and mystery.
Seven Premier Leagues. Four FA Cups. A Champions League. The steel of the ’94 side, blended seamlessly with the silk of ’99. “Roy Keane with a captain’s goal," as the famous commentary from Turin goes.
Roy Keane with a captain’s career, as his United epitaph should read.