Spats, Scraps, and Pep Talks: Roy Keane's Most Controversial Moments
In typical Keane fashion, his split from Sir Alex Ferguson was far from amicable. After criticising his own team-mates on Manchester United’s own television channel, the midfielder had a spectacular falling out with Ferguson and assistant Carlos Queiroz before his contract was torn up.
After a decorated 12-year career at Old Trafford, Keane left for Celtic before retiring in 2006 to begin a career in management with Sunderland and, later, Ipswich Town.
The Irishman is now enjoying happier times as assistant manager with the Republic of Ireland, who qualified for Euro 2016 with a 3-1 aggregate win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday.
While nowadays his controversies are limited to the occasional joke at the expense of paternal leave, we’ve taken a look back at some of the hard-hitting midfielder’s more contentious moments from a glittering, often foul-mouthed and talented football career.
Criticism of Manchester United's Fans
If biting the hand that feeds you is an art form, Keane is its most prized exponent.
After a 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev booked United’s passage through to the 2000-01 Champions League knockout stages, the Irishman took offence to the way the crowd had reacted to the team’s play.
Keane told BBC Radio:
Our fans away from home are as good as any, but some of them come here and you have to wonder do they understand the game of football?
Away from home our fans are fantastic, I’d call them the hardcore fans.
But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don’t realise what’s going on out on the pitch.
I don’t think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell football, never mind understand it.
Highbury Tunnel Scrap with Patrick Vieira
Warning: Video contains NSFW language
Manchester United’s rivalry with Arsenal was at its most fierce in 2005, and it was, perhaps, epitomised by Keane’s famous altercation with Patrick Vieira in the tunnel at Highbury.
The Irishman reacted frostily to what he saw as bullying by Arsenal against United’s right-back, Gary Neville.
“As I walked to the front I heard something going on at the top of the tunnel”, wrote Keane in his autobiography (per the Irish Independent). “All I could see was a few fingers, pointing at Gary. I lost it. Five seconds earlier I’d been perfectly calm, in the zone, ready for the match”.
United went on to win the match 4-2, but lost the league title to Chelsea.
Later on, Keane was happy to shrug off the incident. “I had forgotten my captain’s armband”, he said in the ITV documentary Best of Enemies (per the Daily Mail), in which he appeared alongside Vieira.
“I can’t remember exactly what I said but it was probably along the lines of ‘excuse me, Patrick’."
Creative Management: THAT Sunderland Team Talk
Sunderland had won just three times in 16 Premier League games in the 2007-08 season when their manager tried a new motivational tactic.
Revealed in defender Danny Higginbotham's autobiography Rise of the Underdog: My Life Inside Football (per the Daily Mail), the censored version of Keane's pre-game speech suggests the Black Cats just weren't very good.
Higginbotham wrote: ''Listen lads,' he said. 'Basically you're s--t. Try and enjoy the game. You're probably going to get beat. But just enjoy being s--t."
Sunderland went on to draw 1-1 with Aston Villa, with Higginbotham getting on the scoresheet.
Higginbotham also reveals that Keane once told him to stop offering his players encouragement and "tell some of them they're being c--ts."
After leading Sunderland to promotion in his first season in charge, and avoiding the drop the following year, Keane left the Black Cats in December 2008.
Republic of Ireland World Cup Walkout
Keane vented his frustrations with the Republic of Ireland's preparations for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea in an interview with the Irish Times.
While in Saipan in the weeks leading up to the tournament, the midfielder took aim at the side's travel arrangements and training facilities, among others.
The result was an angry (and typically swear-laden) confrontation with manager Mick McCarthy in front of his team-mates, per the Guardian.
"Mick, you're a liar... you're a f--king w--ker. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person.
You're a f--king w--ker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse.
The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your b------s."
Keane left the squad and did not return for the World Cup, though his retirement from international football was only temporary.
And, if his comments after the qualifier against Bosnia on Monday are anything to go by, he's put the so-called "Saipan incident" behind him.
Revenge on Alf-Inge Haaland?
April 21, 2001, was the day on which Keane's reputation will be remembered.
An innocuous incident involving Alf-Inge Haaland, then at Leeds United, years earlier had Keane waiting for his moment to pounce, and he used the Manchester derby for just that.
As the minutes ticked away in a 1-1 draw between the cross-town rivals, Keane launched into one of the ugliest challenges ever seen in Premier League history.
Although he says the suggestion that he deliberately tried to injure the Norwegian Haaland "hurt me," he does admit that the tackle was intentional.
"[Haaland] pissed me off, shooting his mouth off," Keane wrote in his autobiography The Second Half (per the Guardian). "He was an absolute p---k to play against. Niggling, sneaky. I did want to nail him and let him know what was happening. I wanted to hurt him and stand over him and go: ‘Take that, you c--t.’ I don’t regret that. But I had no wish to injure him."
He insists that the tackle was not an act of revenge: "If I’d been this madman out for revenge, why would I have waited years for an opportunity to injure him?"
Keane earned himself a red card, a five-match ban and a hefty fine, while Haaland played just 48 further minutes of professional football.