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Wayne Rooney has leapt to the defence of former team-mate Roy Keane over his now infamous interview with Manchester United’s TV station that is believed to have hastened his departure from Old Trafford 15 years ago.
Keane launched a blistering attack against some of his team-mates, including Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher, Alan Smith, John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson, following a 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough in October 2005.
The 30-minute interview, due to be screened on MUTV, was subsequently pulled as the club’s management deemed his comments too critical. Two weeks later Keane was released from the final six months of his contract, a subdued end to a glittering United career that yielded 17 trophies over 12-and-a-half years.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder had already endured several run-ins with then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson over the preceding six months, with the MUTV interview seen as the final straw.
Though well known for his abrasive style and fierce determination, many felt Keane had overstepped the mark in being so vocally critical of his team-mates. Rooney, though, says that is not the case, and believes Keane was justified in making those comments.
“Roy Keane was vocal. He had an aura,” Rooney told The Times.“I remember my first United training session thinking, ‘I need to impress him.’ Not the manager. Him.
“I was at United when he gave his infamous MUTV interview but disagree with how it’s portrayed. Roy was supposedly too critical of his team-mates but I’ve watched the video and there’s nothing wrong with it at all. He said that players can’t pass the ball ten yards and they’re playing for Manchester United and it’s not good enough. Well, he’s right.”
Rooney would later follow in Keane’s footsteps and become United captain in the summer of 2014, following the departure of Nemanja Vidic. He was appointed England captain later that year too after Steven Gerrard’s retirement.
The Derby forward says he learnt a great deal from the skippers he played under during his career, each displaying different character traits. They all, though, possessed the same set of characteristics that made them such successful leaders.
“Captains set the example through performances,” Rooney added. “They don’t have to be the best player, but they have to be consistent. They can’t show weakness. They have to always show belief. If you go a goal down you have to keep encouraging, demonstrating your calmness to everyone.
“The best captains I played for had different personalities but shared those traits. David Beckham was quiet, but it was an iconic time when he was captain of England because of his status in the game. He led through his attitude and work rate.
"Stevie Gerrard brought drive and determination. He wasn’t the most vocal, but you knew by one of his tackles what he was saying. John Terry was very good too; Duncan Ferguson was really quiet off the pitch but on it was all heart and fight.”