By Sam Wallace, Football Correspondent
As befits two men with zero tolerance for sentimentality, there will be no false bonhomie for the cameras when Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson come face to face with each other as managers for only the second time this afternoon. Defeat has become an unfamiliar habit for Keane this season but, as Sir Alex pointed out last week, it was just one more painful step on the trail to managerial enlightenment.
Sir Alex quickly drew on his own experience, and that of his son, Darren, a rookie manager at Peterborough, to illustrate the volatile nature of his profession. Having beaten Everton on Sunday, Manchester United face Sunderland today one point behind Arsenal at the top of the Premier League while Keane is in a very different predicament at the bottom of the table.
"Losing is part of the game he [Keane] lost games here," Sir Alex said. "We didn't win every week. As I keep saying about my own team, how you recover from a defeat is important. Roy is in that situation himself. Handling it is part of the job. How to come out of it and be better. That applies to us all. I went down to watch Darren's team last week against MK Dons. Peterborough did not deserve to lose but I spoke to Darren afterwards and said these are the things he has to handle.
"He has to make sure they win next week. That is your challenge as a manager. That is your test. It is the same for everyone. No-one is any different. I have had some belting results and say, 'Where do I go from here?' I lost 5-0 to Newcastle. How do you think I felt?"
Keane was not playing in October 1996 when United were battered by the Newcastle team they had reeled in to win the League in the previous summer, though he has already suffered a heavier defeat as a manager this season at the hands of Everton (7-1). Ferguson said he has not encouraged any of his players to go into management, instead it has been something they have come to late in their careers.
"Forget the top player thing, it [management] is a hard profession to go into," Sir Alex said. "It's harder than it has ever been, simply because if you look at Lawrie Sanchez being sacked: he has only been in the job four months. After that time, bang, he is away.
"We have different types of owners from what we are used to. We have foreign ownership and a different type of media than we had when I started.
"There are more demands than I had when I started. It is a difficult profession to go into. It is a precarious job. You only need to ask Lawrie Sanchez today. He will be terribly disappointed.
"Forget whether it is a top player or not, the only advice you can give anyone is to make sure you do your best to be prepared. Go for your coaching badges and get the appropriate procedures that the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association] and LMA [League Managers Association] can help you with. At least you have a chance."