MANCHESTER: Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed inspirational skipper Roy Keane as one of the greatest players ever to play for the Old Trafford giants.
Keane grabbed his 50th United goal in the 2-0 win against Birmingham on Saturday to keep his teams Premiership title hopes alive with that landmark strike following his battling performance in the 4-2 win against bitter rivals Arsenal in midweek.
It was fantastic goal and Im really proud of him, said Ferguson after Keanes second half goal had notched up the 50 mark 16 months after he had hit number 49.
Some people can revisit old times and that was the Roy Keane of 10 years ago. He really is an incredible player. In 30 years time or even 500 years from now, he will be talked about as being one of the greatest players ever at this club.
Keanes goal ensured his sides nerves remained steady and allowed them to make sure of a comfortable victory 10 minutes from time through Wayne Rooneys tap in, following a mistake by Birmingham defender Kenny Cunningham.
Ferguson, who has seen his side win their last five league games and remain unbeaten in the league since Octobers reverse at Portsmouth, was not alone in his admiration of his 33-year-old captain.
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce, a former United skipper himself, was also applauding the Irishman.
We know hes a class act. Hes still an incredible driving force, a proper captain, said Bruce.
Just when they needed something, hes given them the spark they needed. Thats why hes a huge player. He leads by example and will be a hard act to follow.
Keane played down his milestone, instead the Irishman focused on maintaining his teams current run as they look to up the pressure on Chelsea, and continue their Champions League quest with a daunting tie against AC Milan later this month.
The manager made one or two changes and freshened things up because its so important to keep the momentum going, said Keane.
Ive been saying for the past few weeks that we keep asking questions of Chelsea and, to be fair, they keep answering us and you got to give credit where credit is due.
With games against Manchester City and Milan coming up, its important we keep focusing on our own form.
Ferguson added that Chelsea, who played Uniteds neighbours Manchester City on Sunday, may not be at the top of their game.
They are very resilient theres no question of that and they are getting the results but their form has not been as good as it has been in the past and that gives us something, said the Scotsman.
Ferguson also revealed that Keane would miss Irelands friendly against Portugal on Wednesday with a slight knee injury and also ruled out Rio Ferdinand from Englands game with Holland on the same night. AFP