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Ferguson’s pep talk for Keane

When Alex Ferguson moved to take Roy Keane from the City Ground to Old Trafford in the summer of 1993, what impressed him was that of all Brian Clough’s players he alone seemed to realise early on how serious Nottingham Forest’s predicament was. “He was the only one,” Ferguson recalled, “who really fought against their relegation.”

From the moment he joined United until the day he became a manager, relegation was never a prospect Keane remotely faced; the lowest he ever then finished as a player was third. However, with his Sunderland side mired in the drop zone on Christmas Day, it has once more become a spectre in his life.

“Losing is part of the game,” said Ferguson who, together with Clough, shaped Keane as a footballer and a human being. “He lost games here. As I keep saying about my own team, how you recover from a defeat is important. Handling losing is part of the job.

“You have to come out of it and be better and that applies to us all. I went down to watch my son Darren’s team against Milton Keynes Dons [managed by another of his old boys, Paul Ince]. It was a fantastic game for that division and Peterborough did not deserve to lose, but I spoke to Darren afterwards and told him that these are the things he has to handle.

“I told him: ‘That is your challenge as a manager; that is your test and it is the same for everyone’. I have been on the receiving end of some belting defeats and said to myself: ‘Where do I go from here?’ I lost 5-0 to Newcastle in 1996 and how do you think I felt after that?”

More of Ferguson’s players, both at Aberdeen and Manchester United, have gone into coaching than those of any other comparable manager. Of the men Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley managed at Liverpool, only three — John Toshack, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish became truly successful in their own right in the dug-out.

“In my experience of the players I have had here, they always used to say they would never go into management,” said Ferguson. “They always kept telling me that they didn’t know how I did it.

“Then, when it comes to the tail-end of your career and it is time to start putting the boots away, they start missing it and asking themselves what they are going to do next.

“Some go on to a television panel on a Saturday afternoon to do their punditry, some open pubs, some train to be youth coaches. But a lot of players that I’ve had possess the kind of determination that makes management an option. Roy certainly had that.

“But I have never encouraged anyone to go into this business. It has to come from them. What I have done is tell them to take their coaching badges. It is something they should have in their armoury, just in case they change their mind.

“Two years before Roy quit, he was taking his badges. I think Gary Neville and Nicky Butt did it at the same time. I never said to him that he should be a manager. We don’t talk all that much now, although I still get the odd text from him, which always seems to be asking about players.”

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