Hong Kong, 1997. Roy Keane has just been made Manchester United captain and he faces the media after a preseason win against South China at Hong Kong Stadium. As a young journalist who’d interviewed him earlier on the tour, I attend the press conference. Keane sees me later and gets straight to the point. “Why didn’t you ask any questions?” he says. “Erm.” “What’s the point of you coming if you don’t ask any questions? I’m there for you to ask me questions.” He had a point, he usually does, but there’s not one individual in Manchester United’s history who divides opinion so much as Keane. He’s respected and ridiculed in equal measure, especially in the Republic of Ireland. Across the Irish Sea, Britons are as entrenched in their views on Keane as they are on Brexit. “Great player, but ... ,” you’ll hear. Yet he has won many admirers for what he says and his propensity to be prepared to say it in a small industry where people are too afraid to say what they really think for fear of burning bridges. History is written by the victors, but while Ferguson won their personal dual, Keane was a winner too. It’s not impossible for them both to be right, even when disagreeing on the same issue Keane was the greatest midfielder in the Premier League era, but, currently not involved in management, he’s in the headlines now for different reasons. In Dublin last week he did a two-hour interview in a packed theatre with Gary Neville. It’s online and utterly captivating. Neville’s good; Keane’s too blockbuster, perhaps, even for his own good. Keane clearly had things on his mind and he was not afraid to share them. Sacred cows like Sir Alex Ferguson were not spared. There’s little filter – to hell with the consequences. Keane’s two autobiographies were among the very best from a footballer. He’s the opposite of the anodyne sportsman reading from a cliché sheet and he’s always been like that. The world is a more interesting place for his presence and if he’s fallen out with people he worked with (with great success) then so be it. History, it is said, is written by the victors, but while Ferguson won their personal dual, Keane was a winner too. It’s not impossible for them both to be right, even when disagreeing on the same issue. Just because his version of events doesn’t tie in with the official Manchester United view of what went on, doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. It can be unedifying to hear them criticise each other, but so can endless cloying descriptions of a saintly Ferguson. Ferguson’s a great man, but he’s also partly responsible for the Glazer family taking over Manchester United in 2005. Ferguson was ruthless and utterly driven. So was Keane and such qualities made them the best at what they did. “Two bulls in the same pen,” was Andy Cole’s view of a pair he gets on very well with. They can hold a grudge with the best of them, yet you’ll hear the most incredible stories about each of them on the Manchester grapevine, the hospital beds they’ve turned up to unannounced to say goodbye to a dying fan, the dinners to raise money for good causes which they’ve attended for free until the early hours when they’ve been mithered with one-way conversations from drunks. I met Keane at Manchester Airport a few years ago and spoke to him for an hour. It was a pleasure. He was witty, dry, droll, knowledgeable about players and keen to improve and to manage again. Yet in that time he was continually approached for photos or autographs. If the person asked politely then he agreed. If they surreptitiously pretended to be texting while taking pictures then hell hath no fury like a man who prefers confrontation to gentle diplomacy. Keane did so well in his first managerial job at Sunderland that he was on a trajectory to replace Ferguson. He would have likely got the job had Fergie retired in 2007. But not in 2013 when he was unemployed after failing at Ipswich Town. Ferguson has long retired, Keane wants to manage again. He’s only 48 and he should get another shot. He wouldn’t be dull – he’s adamant he’s learned from earlier mistakes as a young manager. Cork, September 2018. A sell-out testimonial game in memory of Liam Miller in which Keane has gone over and above in what could be expected of him, bringing in former teammates to his home city. I make sure I’m the first journalist to ask a question this time at the post-match press conference, one about Liam Miller. “He was a very good player who played for United, Celtic and his country,” replied Keane. “A really nice guy, a quiet guy, very humble. But don’t get me wrong. Liam was very strong. You don’t get to the top in any sport unless you’ve got good confidence behind you and a lot of determination. He was no angel but he knew how to play the game and he was a good guy.” Keane could have almost been talking about himself. How Manchester United need a Keane-type player today – but will they ever need him as manager?