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MACCA: Bully boy Roy is simply Fergie's spitting image.

Byline: PAUL McCARTHY

CAN we stop tip-toeing around like some spotty teenager who has broken curfew. The word we're looking for to describe Roy Keane is ARROGANT.

Keane doesn't like the training facilities in Saipan so he has the right to blast everybody who comes in range.

Arrogance.

Keane doesn't like the fact he's had to fly 17 hours for Ireland's World Cup preparations and that the airport was crowded, so he has the right to lambast all and sundry.

Arrogance.

Keane feels he has the moral right to stand up and launch a scathing assault on a manager he reckons doesn't measure up to the standards the captain himself sets and expects.

Arrogance.

Sure, it's fine for the rest of the plebs who roll up to join the Ireland squad, those along for a laugh and a ride, to have a few weeks at the pinnacle of the game before returning home to their families.

But not for Lord God Almighty Keane. For he is perfection incarnate, a living, breathing specimen of the model professional. A man whose sights are set so high that none can hope to match them, let alone breathe the same rarified and unsullied air.

After all, isn't this the man who literally unseated the Football Association of Ireland from their business class perch when the players were forced to travel goat class?

Isn't this the man who slaughtered the very fans who paid his wages but was met with nothing but praise from the Old Trafford masses for his 'honesty'?

And isn't this the man who can annually heap such opprobrium on team-mates when Manchester United fail to win the European Cup, title, FA Cup etc. as if he alone was immune from criticism, despite being the supposed leader on the pitch?

Arrogance in extremis.

The problem is, nobody has ever thought to rein in Keane when the demons that inhabit his mind suddenly spew forth from his mouth.

Not until Mick McCarthy realised the line in the sand had not just been crossed, but irrevocably destroyed, has anybody had the guts to turn to Keane and ask him to look in the mirror at his own inadequacies.

Certainly not Sir Alex Ferguson. And why would he when Keane is everything he adores in a player. Because Keane is simply Ferguson in a Manchester United jersey.

It's no coincidence that the players Ferguson holds above all others in his time at Old Trafford possess exactly the same traits and weaknesses as the manager - a desperation for success that seems to border on psychosis and a willingness to court outrage, to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour at times with a condemnation of those they feel cannot meet their own exacting standards.

Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and, above all, Keane are the kind of players Ferguson dreamt of being - had he an ounce of their talent.

So he tolerates their misdemeanours, defends their outbursts and, in the case of Keane, is content for him to run off at the mouth if it means those around him are somehow shocked into contrition.

It's the way Ferguson himself has ruled at United. If he doesn't like the way things are run, the toys come out of the pram and those in power are called to account - otherwise the manager threatens to walk away from it all.

We've seen it time and time again. When United have spluttered in Europe or at home, it's never been down to Ferguson, but the fault of a penny-pinching board who cannot match his ambition.

Suddenly the purse-strings loosen and Fergie smirkingly accepts the cheque to either pocket or spend in the transfer market.

Can it be a surprise to anybody, then, that the man cast in Ferguson's mould strides exactly the same path?

Keane, however, has had his bluff called for the first time. Suddenly there are a group of players who are only too happy to see him cut off at the knees by a manager strong enough to stand up to his bully-boy arrogance.

The fact that they actually applauded as their captain made his way to the plane says it all.

Undoubtedly, indulgence bloated Keane's sense of self-importance. His pious belief he had some kind of moral obligation to speak out simply confirmed what many were already thinking - that this was a man out of control.

Here is someone whose strengths are innumerable but whose one weakness has proved fatal.

Sadly, arrogance will do that to you every time - even if your name is Roy Keane.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 26, 2002
Words:758
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