x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane are like two bulls in a pen

Andrew Cole: I hope Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson can sort their differences out. Knowing both, that's not going to happen overnight.

Roy Keane, left, was critical of Manchester United's Champions League performance, which annoyed his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Roy Keane, left, was critical of Manchester United's Champions League performance, which annoyed his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
I was trying to sleep in a Hong Kong hotel when I heard the banging in the corridor. It was 1997 and I was on tour with Manchester United. I went to investigate and saw that Roy Keane, the club captain, was rolling around fighting with Peter Schmeichel, the giant goalkeeper. They weren't playing.

"Typical Roy," I thought, and went back to bed smiling. The next day, Schmeichel was wearing sunglasses. There had only been one winner.

Keane could fall out with anyone. I once saw him come to blows with one of his best mates, Denis Irwin, in the dressing room. They were both from Cork and close friends. And they were being pulled apart.

Typical Roy, brilliant Roy.

He wanted to win more than anything. He was born like that and was never anything but completely and utterly driven. In matches, in training - and even in a recent veterans tournament, where he told me that he would take it easy. Two games in, he was the old Roy, flying into - and winning - tackles.

Keane would always take defeat badly, as if it was a personal insult. That mood infected the United team which won trophy after trophy. He embodied it more than anyone, and what a player he was.

There was always room for improvement in his eyes, and he would let players know it. When United's record signing Dwight York arrived at Old Trafford in 1998, Keane hammered him for having a poor first touch. He kept saying: "You're at Man United now Yorkie, this isn't good enough."

He carried this on into matches. I laughed because Dwight actually had a lovely first touch, one of the best. But it wasn't good enough for Keane.

He never shouted at me. I always got on well with him and still do. I played with him for six years at United and played under him at Sunderland. Top man. I find him very witty, dry and so cutting with his comments that people don't often don't realise he's taking a rise out of them.

When he was brutally honest in interviews, I thought he was being so on the manager's authority. He was the manager's enforcer on the pitch and his voice off it. That's why he was never taken to task for his outspoken comments. It saddens me that Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson no longer get on.

As a hard-headed and awkward teenager, I used to get into disagreements with my father. He used to see me challenging him and he didn't like it. He told me that there wasn't room for two bulls in a pen. There was only going to be one winner between me and dad, and it wasn't me. When I see Ferguson and Keane falling out, it reminds me of me and my dad.

I don't like seeing two people for whom I have a huge amount of respect and admiration having cross words publicly, but they are both their own men and are not shy about expressing their opinions.

That's a quality of both men.

Keane is as honest a TV critic as he was a player. I raised my eyebrows when he took that job, though, because he used to hammer players who went into TV, but Keane wants to stay in football and wants to stay active. Life moves on. If you don't play then you manage or coach. If you don't manage then you get into TV.

TV companies want him because they know he won't sit on the fence and be afraid to upset people. Keane made comments in Basel after United were eliminated from the Champions League which annoyed Ferguson. I was with Keane in Basel before the game and he was in a great mood.

He came to see me, Gary Pallister and Bryan Robson in our hotel for a coffee. That's the Gary Pallister whom Keane didn't speak to for three years when they played together. They're fine now and can laugh about it.

Keane wasn't happy when he first saw us. He thought we'd all been to a Coldplay concert the night before and deliberately not asked him along. Someone had told him that and he wanted to know why he wasn't invited.

We were mystified by his complaints. "Coldplay," he said. "You all went to see Coldplay." A singer called Cole Page was on our trip and he'd got his wires crossed.

I hope Keane and Ferguson can sort their differences out. I hope Keane can have the same type of relationship that Bryan Robson, a former United captain, has with the manager. Knowing both, that's not going to happen overnight.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.