Roy Keane in action for Manchester United.

When United swooped to sign Keane

Tuesday 24 January 2023 16:25

In the summer of 1993, Nottingham Forest firebrand Roy Keane was the one player everybody wanted to sign.

The Republic of Ireland international had been outstanding for Brian Clough's side but even he was powerless to prevent the City Ground club sliding out of the Premier League.

Operating as a box-to-box midfielder, or even centre-half at times, at the age of 21, he looked every inch a world-class performer in the making.

Roy Keane is a bona-fide United legend.

Arsenal were long-term suitors but Blackburn Rovers moved into pole position and thought they had brokered a deal. Keane even agreed to the move with Rovers boss Kenny Dalglish, provoking an angry response from the Scot when instead considering Alex Ferguson's 11th-hour attempts to enter the chase.

"I agreed a deal and shook hands with him," the midfield man later recalled. "I went back to Cork and, on the Sunday morning, woke up and I got a phone-call from Sir Alex to my house back in Cork and he said will you come and meet with me for talks tomorrow. I said look, I shook hands with Blackburn and he said don't worry about that! Kenny was fuming!"

The Reds manager was determined to win this particular transfer war with his old adversary Dalglish, the Liverpool legend.

"I can't afford to lose this player," Ferguson told Forest boss Frank Clark, who replaced the legendary Clough at the end of the season. "You know how much I have wanted him for ages."

It could well have been one of those sliding-doors moments. Blackburn had already pipped United to the signature of super-striker Alan Shearer and this was a player equally as capable of dominating the Premier League.

The stakes were genuinely that high but it would take a lot of money to land Keane, as it transpired £3.75 million, a British record. The fact he was the Reds' only first-team signing that summer perhaps indicates that he took up the budget but Ferguson needed a long-term replacement for Bryan Robson and the future captain proved perfect.

"We had to sign Roy Keane," recalled Sir Alex. "It was absolutely vital for the club's future."

United fans held their breath as negotiations continued but the champions got our man. Could he make us even better? Well, he helped the team win the Charity Shield by beating Arsenal on his debut, scoring in the penalty shoot-out, before bagging a brace on his first home outing, against Sheffield United.

The tally of 54 appearances Roy made in his opening season was only bettered by the 55 registered in the Treble-winning campaign and, come the end of that second term of the Premier League, United were not only crowned title winners again but also hammered Chelsea 4-0 in the FA Cup final to record our first-ever Double.