Following his last appearance at Old Trafford and, as it has transpired, his final performance as a professional footballer on 9 May, Roy Keane said that there were three career paths open to him once he retired from football: a move into management or coaching; spending time with the family; and becoming a fully fledged football fan with a season ticket for Manchester United. Option two is the early favourite today.
Keane will not be short of offers to take his abrasive tongue and vast experience into management this summer, and commence the process that many believe will eventually see him become a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. He has already commenced his coaching badges and made no secret of his desire to remain in the game. As he said in the aftermath of his testimonial last month, however, "I am very relaxed about the future", and the indications are that he will not rush to accept the first job offer that comes along.
Of the available managerial positions currently available at the higher level of the English game, both Sunderland and Crystal Palace would represent attractive staging posts for his first step into the dug-out, but the anticipated takeover at the Stadium of Light by a consortium fronted by Niall Quinn would present obvious problems to the man who walked out on the Republic of Ireland at the 2002 World Cup.
Equally, the charismatic Palace chairman Simon Jordan, at an advanced stage in the search for a replacement for Iain Dowie, would not suit Keane's ideal of a hands-off employer.
Keane would consider becoming a number two to an established manager (who would have to be prepared to work alongside his potential successor) and that option was aired in discussions with Everton and Bolton before his move to Celtic in December. More likely, however, is that his immediate thoughts will be spending more time with his wife, Theresa, and their five children, having refused to leave his home in the North-west when he joined the Scottish champions and cited the extensive travelling as a factor in his frustrating spell in Glasgow.
"I have learned over the last few months that it is dangerous to make other plans. Things will work out for themselves without me pushing it too much," he said in May. "Coaching or the management side of things is at the back of my mind but I do feel I should spend some time with my wife and kids when it is over."
Typically, the 34-year-old offered no further clues about his next step in the brief statement that confirmed his illustrious career was over yesterday. "Having received medical advice from my surgeon and the Celtic FC doctor, I feel my only option is to retire," he said. "I would like to send the manager, the staff, players and supporters my very best wishes for the future."
Keane's former mentor and ally, Ferguson, led the tributes to his former captain last night despite the arguments that prompted his departure from United last year and only appeared to be reconciled at his recent testimonial.
"Roy's obsession with winning and the demand he put on others made him the most influential player in the dressing-room," the United manager said. "He became a great captain through that and to my mind he is the best player I've had in all of my time here. Over the years when they start picking the best teams of all time, he'll be in there. His display in Turin in 1999 was selfless, just wonderful. It was a tragedy he wasn't able to play in the final in Barcelona."
Gordon Strachan, who managed Keane for the final 13 games of his career, added: "Roy Keane is one of the greatest ever players to grace the game of football. It was fantastic we were able to bring him to Celtic and it has been a privilege to work with him.
"While we would have very much liked Roy to continue for the remaining year of his contract, everyone at the club fully understands and respects the decision he has made."
Roy's own story From an attack on the prawn-sandwich brigade to the infamous Ireland row - not forgetting that tackle on Haaland, Roy Keane was never short of a word...
* "He shouldn't be lying on the floor. Defenders shouldn't be on their backsides. I felt that he got in the way" - After being sent off for stamping on Gareth Southgate in 1995.
* "Sometimes you wonder, do they understand the game of football? We're 1-0 up, then there are one or two stray passes and they're getting on players' backs. It's just not on. At the end of the day they need to get behind the team. Away from home our fans are fantastic, I'd call them the hardcore fans. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch. I don't think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell football, never mind understand it." - On the Old Trafford crowd, 2000.
* "Even in the dressing room afterwards I had no remorse. My attitude was, 'What goes around comes around.' He got his just rewards. My attitude is an eye for an eye." - On the foul on Alf-Inge Haaland that the Norwegian said ended his career.
* "It makes me laugh, players going on about how they are saving this country and saving that country but when they have the opportunity to play - well, it's probably none of my business." - Following a confrontation with Arsenal's Senegal-born France international Patrick Vieira at Highbury in 2005.
* "Results don't lie and the table doesn't lie. Our performance levels have not been good enough. Everyone at this club needs to look at themselves and ask whether they are giving 100 per cent." - After Manchester United finished the 2004-05 season without a trophy.
* "I am not pointing the finger at anybody, but if there was anything to make me say, 'I am going to spend the week with my wife and kids at home', that would be it. Where we trained in Clonshaugh it was abysmal and it has been for as long as I've known it. I was fairly critical of the seating arrangements for a flight when the officials were at the front and the players behind." - On the Football Association of Ireland in 2001, a year before his infamous row at the World Cup.Reuse content