Martin O'Neill defends 'brilliant' Roy Keane after world-class player snub

Martin O'Neill defends 'brilliant' Roy Keane after world-class player snub

IRELAND manager Martin O’Neill has paid tribute to Roy Keane, after his 'brilliant' right-hand-man was controversially omitted from Sir Alex Ferguson’s list of his top world-class players.

In his newly released biography Leading, the former Manchester United boss named the players he had managed during his 27 years at the club whom he deemed to be outstanding.

Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes were pinpointed as his four world-class players; with ex-Manchester United captain Keane failing to make the cut.

On Wednesday, Keane refused to be drawn into the latest furore to dominate the pair’s tumultuous relationship.

But O’Neill – speaking at the opening of a new pain service facility at a hospice in Cork – paid tribute to his assistant manager.

"I actually feel a bit of an intruder here today because I have arrived down here in Cork which, as we all know, belongs to Mr Keane,” he said.

"It is very special to be here with Roy. I am now going to invite Roy up to open and close some shop in Kilrea (his Derry birthplace) so that people will actually know there that I am quite famous."

Ferguson’s decision to omit several of his key players including Keane has reignited debate over the pair’s strained relationship.

In his new book, he wrote: “I don't mean to demean or criticise any of the great or very good footballers who played for me during my 26-year career at United, but there were only four who were world class: Cantona, Giggs, Ronaldo and Scholes. And of the four, Cristiano was like an ornament on the top of a Christmas tree.”