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Roy Keane Interview

ROY KEANE is the last person in the world who should worry about his future. But he does. A lot.

The player who earns more than any other in the country, spends his professional life looking over his shoulder. Usually for Alex Ferguson.

Keane says: "Every time I see the gaffer, in every training session, during every match, I try and impress him"

"He sets the standard. I have seen players who have just dropped off a little and within a few months they have gone.

"The intensity of Alex Ferguson is frightening. He demands. We have to deliver. Better players than me have left United. I have spoken to them later and it has been their biggest regret.

"You don't have to leave United. You only go if the manager thinks you are not up to it.

"It applies to me. Without a shadow of doubt I am under pressure."

You wouldn't think that this is the captain of Manchester United talking - a player at the peak of his career who banks a reported 72,000 a week.

There is an incredible honesty about Keane. You get no showbiz from him.

It is just the way he likes it and mirrors the private man. The character changes, of course, when he pulls on the red shirt and crosses the white line.

Then we have Keane the leader, competitor and fierce rival. He admits that he is shocked when newspaper pictures show the eyes blazing and veins in is neck bulging. "It doesn't look like me," he says

Honesty

He also reveals how he will never be a great player. And that the massive test for United will come at the end of the season when Fergie ("I would never dream of calling him that, he is the boss or gaffer") quits as manager.

Keane says: "Let's get one thing straight, Roy Keane is not a great player. No chance, far from it."

There are so many players better than me who haven't made it.

"I make up for it in other areas. Like hunger and desire. I play to my strengths. I can't whip the ball in like Becks or run at defenders like Giggsy. I'll never be able to do that.

"This club has had some legends, Best, Law, Charlton. I am not one of them.

"There would have to be more trophies for that to be a consideration."

Proud

"I do not consider myself a great player or a legend. I am a winner and am proud of that. "

"I have made it to the top by hard work. Now I am here, it is bloody difficult staying out in front.

"If I stood still I know that I would go backwards. In training, I look at kids coming through like Chadwick, Wilson, Wallwork, Greening and Stewart, kids who want to show me and the rest a thing or too.

"I say to myself 'You have got to stay ahead of the pack.'

"It is funny that the real moments in my career I can remember are the downs, the time we lost the league to Blackburn, losing to Arsenal at Old Trafford when they caught us and won the title, losing the Cup Final to Spurs with Forest. I should recall the highs but it is the lows that keep me going.

"I am 29 and look after myself. I try and eat the right food and take more rest than I used to. If players lived their life of five years ago, they would not have a chance today. I mean that. I find it mentally tough.

"At United everything is provided for us. The facilities are out of this world. All they want us to do is perform to the best of our ability. It is not too much to ask. If we don't then we are out."

There is no question that Keane is Fergie in disguise. He is the manager out there on the pitch.

There is the same passion, intensity and drive. The manager admires him. They are not close as people. Respect has brought them together.

No wonder Ferguson made sure that the club kept Keane at Old Trafford. The contract is said to be 52,000 a week. It is a lot more than that, closer to 75,000.

Keane adds: "I do not consider myself a great player or a legend. I am a winner and am proud of that."

Sweat

"I'd like to think that I would be the same player, give the same sweat, had the club paid me 50 a week. No, I know that's true.

"I don't think I have changed as a person since I left Cork. I don't particularly like material things. I don't need more than one car and have a comfortable house. I certainly don't spend fortunes on clothes. I have got a couple of suits for match days.

"Nothing gives me greater pleasure than being at home with my family or walking my dogs for hours.

"That doesn't mean to say that I didn't negotiate the best possible deal with United. That is the industry I am in. Every man would have done the same.

"The point that I make is that it hasn't changed me. I would be just as happy without my money. It is a comfort knowing that there is security for my children. There are other things in life.

"The money in football is crazy. But it is a short career and we must make the most of it.

"Doesn't everyone accuse footballers of being driven by money. Players do not sit in the dressing room after a defeat thinking 'at least I have got paid this much today.'

"Once you cross the line, only one thing enters your mind. Football. To win. A player up against me on 50 a week might have more hunger.

"It is the skilful players who are attacked more if things go wrong. The up-and-down ones like me don't get the money thing thrown at them so much.

"I have no problem with what any of the other players do with their money. Listen, I could not live David Beckham's life and he could not live mine. Everyone is different.

"The United players are not that close socially. On the pitch, however, there is a togetherness. No-one works harder than us.

"Never once have I been in a United dressing room and thought that I had not given my best. The manager would not allow it. "

Keane has two years left of his stunning contract. Then what?
"I am keeping my options open," he says.

"I have never signed a five or six year deal. It is too early to predict. The position I play, the midfield demands, the standards set by the club and me make it impossible to say. By the time my contract ends, the club will have a new manager.

"The new boss might decide that he doesn't want me and the club will say 'Roy, thanks for the memories.'

Peak

"I don't want to drop down the leagues and, physically, I'd like to stay at the top for as long as I can. I am physically at my peak but this is my 11th season and it gets harder.

"I think it is a shame to see top players slipping down for financial reasons. Hopefully, I will not have to do that.

"I really respected Eric Cantona when he made the decision to quit. He just knew. There were one or two games when he realised that he could have done better. He set the standard, he didn't want it to fall. I am a bit like that.

"The whole package today is frightening. Eric's training was tougher than anyone's and the foreign players deserve credit for introducing new methods and a fresh mentality to English football.

"Eric was a great example to Beckham, Scholes and Butt as they came through. He inspired. Today they all train as hard as anyone."

"We love to win at United but we can't all the time. After we were knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham, everyone was down - the kit man, tea lady and my own father Mossie would not talk to me when I rang home. He was so upset he didn't come out of his room. It was like a death in the family.

"I found myself lifting others. My attitude is that you have to be able to accept defeat. It is not the end of the world.

"We were never going to do the treble again. We had incredible luck two seasons ago.

"You have to pick yourself up and go again even if there is always someone waiting for United. 'Let's get United - you can feel it the moment you step from the dressing room.

"It is what drives you on. I know it is what drives the manager on. There are a lot of people all over the country who were delighted that United went out of the Cup.

It is not hard to understand why United are so successful. It is the F factor: Fear: Of Fergie and Failure.

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