|Love affair: Roy Keane spent a lot of his career kissing the Barclays Premier League trophy [GALLO/GETTY]|
The English Premier League’s most decorated captain Roy Keane is not going to be dragged into pre-match hype before his former club Manchester United meet Manchester City on Sunday.
It comes as little surprise that Keane, a player who has won the Premier League seven times with United, believes the talking should be done on the pitch.
Keane may be uncomfortable with pre-match exaggerations but could the derby be an occasion for manager Alex Ferguson to fire his side up with a passionate dressing room speech.
“Ferguson has good players, good strategy and good organisation but he doesn’t really say too much before a game. He likes to think his players are well equipped,” Keane said.
“Manchester City are challenging for the title and are local rivals. If you cannot be fired up for this game you should get out of it.”
Once described by Ferguson as ‘noisy neighbours’ Keane agrees that a good performance is vital to keep the blue side of Manchester quiet.
“It is important to keep your neighbours quiet. When you’ve been at the top you want to stay there.”
“It isn’t just three points. People talk about bragging rights but it is more than that. It is all about keeping your neighbours quiet. If you lose you never hear the end of it”
After a 17 year playing career and four years of management, Keane holds a special place in his heart for the big derbies.
From his days at United and Celtic, and as manager of Sunderland – who have a vicious rivalry with Newcastle – Keane has a good knowledge of the passion involved when two local teams clash.
“Derbies are special. You just feel it in the atmosphere, on the pitch, on the streets where you live. People are talking about the game all the time.”
“It isn’t just three points. People talk about bragging rights but it is more than that. It is all about keeping your neighbours quiet. If you lose you never hear the end of it.”
Regardless of what happens between United and City at Old Trafford on Sunday, Keane thinks it might be another team that benefits from the big occasion.
“Chelsea will be enjoying the fact United and City are getting all the headlines and are the two favourites to win the league,” he said.
“If you were Chelsea manager you would be extremely pleased with what is going on in Manchester.
“They will be kicking lumps out of each other and if it is a draw and Chelsea get a win, they will be top of the table.”
The arrival of Andre Villas Boas has boosted a Chelsea side that have slowly improved through the season and who few would rule out from being eventual champions come May.
With United no longer enjoying the supremacy they did a decade ago, the English Premier League is arguably more popular that ever.
“All this is great for the league. It is good to see Man City are making progress. Then you’ve got Chelsea and Liverpool. For the neutral it’s great, that’s why the league is so popular.”
‘Two sides to every story’
On the Carlos Tevez affair, Keane is wise enough not to cast his own judgement.
The Irish star caused his own scandal when he packed his bags and left the 2002 World Cup after a huge row with manager Mick McCarthy over preparations for the tournament.
“There are two sides to every story. Tevez was trying to defend himself but I cannot possibly understand why a player wouldn’t want to come off the bench.”
What would Keane have done if Tevez had refused to play for him?
“It is difficult to comment on what you should have done, there has been a lot of confusion in the aftermath. I’m not sure what I would have done but I’m pretty sure I would have been pretty angry.”
From a player who saw a record breaking 13 red cards in his career, this is perhaps an understatement.
|Keane is impressed with the way Man City have responded to the Carlos Tevez affair [GETTY]|
Although his loyalty still lies with United, Keane is quick to praise the City players for the way they have responded to the incident around their troubled striker.
“The players have won all their games since Bayern Munch and I think they have reacted pretty well over the last couple of weeks.”
Although millions will be tuning in to watch United’s match-up with their ever-improving local rivals, far fewer are likely to be placing a bet on the game.
Keane is equally undecided about the outcome.
“I am predicting a draw for Sunday. I can’t see them beating United. But what I have learned to do is never bet against United, they enjoy the challenge and are dangerous at home.”
After talking to Keane, it is clear he would give anything to be involved in the match on Sunday, and have the chance to sway the game one way or the other.
While the game on Sunday is massive for both teams, Keane only cares about the action on the pitch.
“There is too much hype. I’ve probably spoken about it too much. But I have to make my money by talking about the game now that I no longer play. Talking on the pitch, it is about talking on the pitch. It is about performing on the day.”