Fergie was scathing in his criticism of Keane in his recently released autobiography but when he travelled to Dublin this week for a tour he admitted Keane’s greatness.
He said: “He was a fantastic captain for me for more than 10 years and one of my best ever players.
“It was only the last year [that we started to fall out]. We had a training camp in Portugal and he wasn’t happy with where he was staying. He wanted to stay a couple of miles down the road. I called him aside and said: 'Come on Roy. Be one of the boys'. And he challenged me.
“Then he criticised the team in public and there’s no coming back from that. In 27 years as manager you make some tough decisions but that was the toughest [getting rid of Roy]. You just can’t go criticising the players.
“When he was managing Sunderland he called to see me and apologised. Nobody helped Roy Keane more than Alex Ferguson.
“I gave him three players on loan to try and give him a good start.
“I could see a lot of myself in players like Roy Keane and Bryan Robson. It was very hard to criticise them because they were great players.“
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