Fletcher reveals all in new UTD Podcast
In the fourth episode of UTD Podcast, which is available on your favourite platforms from Tuesday, Darren Fletcher reveals how Roy Keane's criticism helped to shape him as a player and a man.
As you can read in our full transcript, or watch in the video below, Darren is relentless in his praise of Keane and explains, with passion, why the former no.16 was a pivotal influence on his career…
“Well, first things first, the headlines that came out of it... Roy Keane watched the game and gave an analyst’s view of it, so some of the words he used were in reference to an action in the game. So, for example, if he was talking about somebody's defending in the moment then he called it 'lazy defending' and the headline in the paper was: 'Roy Keane calls that player lazy', so I think it a lot of it had been misconstrued. For me, I saw it as him saying about instances in the game, in terms of it not being good enough for me, and he was completely right. It was Roy Keane challenging me as Manchester United captain and it was something I was used to in the dressing room. The long and short of it is that I knew Roy Keane liked me and that was his way of showing he liked me, because he knew I was capable of more and wanted to challenge me. He would say 'yes, I was little bit harsh there on Fletch but it's because I like him and want him to do well'. So, for me, it was no problem at all. But I can see why Sir Alex Ferguson had a problem with the interview. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. It is not as bad as people think, but, at the same time, a manager had to make a decision based on what he thinks is best for the good of the team. It is something that hung around me for a long time, the fact that Roy Keane didn't like you and didn't rate you. But, for me, it was the complete opposite. I knew that Roy Keane really liked me. He challenged me and was hard on me, 100 per cent, but that was his way of making me a Manchester United player, manning up. The personality and the leader that I became was off the back of that grounding and that schooling.”
“And that is what happened. At the same time, that still hangs around now. I get people coming up to me and asking what I think of Roy Keane. I love Roy Keane! My dad, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane are the three biggest influences on my career. They are the people who helped me. The great thing about Roy Keane is that he says 10 things to you. One of them is classic Roy Keane where he has a go at you, lets you know and is really harsh on you. The other nine times, he gives you a compliment, but nobody hears about that or wants to remember that because it is not a good story to tell. But that is the way I remember Roy Keane. Roy Keane was fantastic with me. Walking off the pitch beside Roy Keane and him saying to you, 'fantastic today son, I could play for another 10 years with you beside me in midfield'. Nobody hears that and it made me feel like a million dollars. The confidence I got from those words from Roy Keane massively outweighed the handful of times when he had a go at me and rightly so, because the levels or my standards were not that of a Manchester United player coming through, which is completely normal.”
“Without a doubt and I knew that! I always seen it as somebody who liked me, who was challenging me and was almost trying to build, not the next Roy Keane, but that sort of mentality and that is what it takes to play for Manchester United. Yes, you are a young lad, but it is a case of manning up very quickly. We are here to win. He talked about going to battle, going to war. All of these things, that is what he wanted and he wanted you to realise where you are. A lot of people talk about playing for Manchester United and they are living in the clouds, they are day dreaming, but there was none of that with Roy Keane and I took it as a compliment, because I was somebody who could handle it and I always handled it quite well. Yes, there were times when he had a go at you and you got a little bit down, but the next day he was there to pick you back up and give you a compliment. Then, boom, you are back to normal.”
Given how much you liked playing with him and how big an influence he was on you, how did you feel when that did blow up to such a proportion that he was forced to leave the club?
“Yeah, I was absolutely devastated and it affected everybody, including Sir Alex Ferguson. How much everyone respected and loved and admired and learned from this great player. Forget about leadership. What an unbelievable player! The best first touch you have ever seen and an unbelievable passer of the ball. People talk about talent and, first, they think about skills on the ball. Talent is epitomised by Roy Keane. He didn't do fancy tricks or that sort of thing, but he was the most dominant player on the pitch, ran the game with his personality and his heart and desire, would run through a brick wall, unbelievable passer of the ball, unbelievable stamina, unbelievable first touch, who controlled and dictated the tempo of a game. That is what you call talent. That is what you call talent in a long sentence, without trying to be too specific. People throw away comments about talent, like when you see somebody do a trick or a fancy bit of skill, and they say 'he is really talented' but it means nothing if you don't have those other things. I think all of that has been forgotten about now, without a doubt. Of course it has. We are in a generation of Twitter and YouTube and 12-second clips. Nobody watches a game for 90 minutes anymore and how somebody can control and dominate a game, and almost impact a game with their personality and will. We didn't just have Roy Keane who could do that, we had a whole team who could do that and, for me, that is why we had the best and most talented team around.”