Roy Keane revealed in his recent autobiography that despite putting on a brave face in the discussions with Alex Ferguson that ultimately called time on his Manchester United career, he then sat in his car after leaving the training ground and cried for hours.
The Manchester United manager at the time, however, did not show the same emotion, and in fact showed no emotion at all as he carried out his usual media obligations, and a story about that day from a man who was there at the time shows just how ruthless Fergie could be when a decision had to be made.
Speaking to therepublikofmancunia.com, Guardian journalist Daniel Taylor told of how Ferguson was joking with the press and acting as if he hadn't a care in the world while his club captain was nearby in tears.
Keane and Fergie. Both fascinating, aren’t they? I was at that press conference on the morning Keane was sacked and Fergie didn’t seem to have a care in the world. We hadn’t seen him for two weeks. “And thank Christ for that,” he joked. “I needed a break from you. Did you know Bayern Munich have a press conference every bloody day? Can you imagine that?”
Honestly, he was in a great mood that day, talking about Scotland winning “the unofficial World Cup” and England’s chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup (“Dearie me, I’ll be 76 by then – if I’m still alive.”) He shooed us out at 12.25pm and we went to get a bacon cob from the burger van round the corner. Proper naïve little lambs.
And then our phones started ringing. Keane’s been sacked? A couple of hours he’d been sitting in his car, crying, on that same country lane. And there was Fergie in the best mood we had seen him for some time. He really was one ruthless fucker – and a brilliant actor when he needed to be.
Taylor then went in to detail on the famous 'Fergie hairdryer' that we've heard so much about, but stressed that when he saw it in action it was far worse than has been let on.
Which is actually scary to imagine...
And, genuinely, if the TV had ever captured the Hairdryer revved up to full you wouldn’t believe it. Everything you have heard, it was worse, trust me. It felt like being back at school sometimes and getting the worst bollocking you’ve ever had from the worst-tempered teacher – while, all the time, trying not to catch one of your mates’ eyes in case of nervous laughter.
I can remember one when he chucked out someone and one of the long-serving journalists – lovely guy, in his 50s – politely raised his hand to ask if he should leave, too. The poor bloke’s head had gone, reaching that age and getting yelled at every Friday. I wish I’d kept those press-conference tapes, to be honest.
That sounds utterly terrifying, but we can't help but also wish that those tapes were around.
Of course, that ruthlessness is what set Ferguson apart as a manager. His ability to remove all personal involvement with his decision as seen in the case of Roy Keane is part of what made Manchester United so successful during his time there.
The full interview over on therepublikofmancunia.com has more stories of a similar ilk if you would like to read more.