• Former Manchester United captain reacts to autobiography
• 'Ferguson says 'frightening' Keane 'overstepped the mark'
Roy Keane has accused Sir Alex Ferguson of not knowing the meaning of loyalty after the former Manchester United manager criticised him and other former players at Old Trafford in his new book.
Keane responded witheringly after Ferguson reopened the pair's long-running feud by saying the former United captain "absolutely overstepped the mark" in a notorious but never-aired MUTV interview that fast-tracked the Irishman's departure from Old Trafford in 2005. He also effectively rubbished Keane's chances of making a career in football management.
Other former United players are criticised in the book, among them Owen Hargreaves and David Beckham. Keane told ITV on Tuesday night: "I think I do remember having a conversation with the manager when I was at the club about loyalty. In my opinion I don't think he knows the meaning of the word.
"It doesn't bother me too much what he has to say about me but to constantly criticise other players at the club who brought him a lot of success, I find very, very strange … I just don't think the manager needs to do that.
"I'm not sure how many books he has written now but he has to draw the line eventually to say: 'Listen, these players have all been top servants to Man United.' And a lot of these players helped the manager win lots of trophies, so imagine if we never won a trophy what he would have said. We brought success to the club, we gave it everything we had when we were there. It's just part of modern life now that people like to do books and criticise their ex-players."
Ferguson expresses characteristically strident opinions in his new book, My Autobiography, many of which jostled for prominence at the launch press conference in London on Tuesday afternoon. The headlines included:
• How he told Wayne Rooney to mind his own business after the United striker urged him to sign Mesut Özil
• How Beckham's love for Victoria and the celebrity lifestyle prevented him from becoming a United legend
• How he was offered the England job twice but it took him 10 seconds to say no.
Ferguson's revelations about what happened with Keane were the most volatile material. He writes that the midfielder had been furious about what he felt were substandard pre-season training facilities at Vale de Lobo in Portugal but it was when Keane later gave his thoughts to United's in-house TV channel that Ferguson experienced what he described as a "horrendous" confrontation.
According to Ferguson, Keane laid into many of his then team-mates in the interview, including Edwin van der Sar, Darren Fletcher, Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson and Rio Ferdinand. Of Ferdinand, Keane is said to have been scornful of the defender's belief that he was a superstar … "just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham."
Keane suggested that the squad watch the interview and what followed was a scene that still makes Ferguson shudder. When outrage ensued among the players, Keane tore into them, but he reserved the most stinging attack for Ferguson, whom he accused of bringing his personal affairs into the club, in the form of his dispute with the Coolmore stud over the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar. "His eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads," Ferguson wrote of Keane. "It was frightening to watch. And I'm from Glasgow."
The interview was not broadcast but Ferguson knew that he had to act. He immediately sanctioned the paying up of Keane's contract and his departure to Celtic in December 2005. The former United manager also slates Keane's managerial track record at Sunderland and Ipswich Town, saying it was plain he needed money to build squads and that he lacked the temperament or patience for the job.
"With the nature of the man, you can expect a response," Ferguson said at the press conference."We had to do something. The meeting was horrendous. I just couldn't lose my control. If I had let it pass, the players would have viewed me much differently to the way I want to be judged. He overstepped his mark, absolutely."
Ferguson repeated his claim that Rooney had "asked away" from United last season, after growing frustrated at being played out of position, and he also wrote that the striker's qualities were in danger of being "swallowed up by a lack of fitness". Describing Rooney as England's "one hope" for the World Cup, he made it clear that the country had to handle him with special care in the countdown to Brazil.
"Wayne asked away," Ferguson said at the press conference. "He felt he was unfairly played out of position and I can understand that. I was dropped at 2.10pm on the day of the Scottish Cup final. I was top goalscorer. I had a heated discussion with the manager. I can understand Wayne but at the time he wasn't playing well enough. That was my judgment. Do you think I would drop Wayne the way he is playing now? Absolutely no way."
On Özil, whom Arsenal signed for £42.5m from Real Madrid in August, Ferguson added: "He was not on our radar and I said that to Wayne at the time [in 2010, when Rooney had handed in a transfer request]. I explained to Wayne to leave the signing of the players to me. We got most things right over the years."
Beckham emerges from the book as one of Ferguson's greatest regrets. He considered him to be like a son but he writes that he had his head turned by the trappings of showbiz. He said that he had to sell him to Real Madrid because Beckham thought he had become bigger than the manager and the club.
Ferguson does not mention Beckham's wife in the chapter of the book that he devotes to him, but he did give her a reference at the press conference. "I think the big problem for me and I'm a football man really ... he fell in love with Victoria and that changed everything," Ferguson said. "I had to think about my own control at the club. Maybe he will look back and say he should have stayed at Real Madrid [and not joined LA Galaxy]. But I don't think I've been too critical on David. He was always a marvellous guy."
Ferguson said that he could never have managed England. "It was a great opportunity in life to relegate them," the Scot joked. "The first time [he was asked] was the Scots lad, from the Post Office, Adam Crozier [the then FA chief executive] and the second time, they approached Martin Edwards [the former United chairman] and I said forget it. I met Crozier at Old Trafford. It didn't take me long – 10 seconds. Think of me going back to Scotland. Deary me."
Ferguson offered his support to his successor, David Moyes, and he insisted that the club could retain the title despite their sluggish start. "When I saw the fixture list [at the beginning of the season], I would have been raging at that," Ferguson said. "I would have gone down to the League. But Manchester United are the only team in that league that can win it coming from behind."