Keane kicks off Celtic career with one last shot at United

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The Independent Online

Roy Keane completed his move to Celtic yesterday but could not resist a last dig at Manchester United, the club where he made his name for more than 12 years.

Keane, who revealed that he had come close to joining Real Madrid, agreed an 18-month contract with Gordon Strachan at Celtic Park before issuing a final explanation for the abrupt end to his distinguished career at Old Trafford.

Keane said: "I push myself hard in training and try to push others hard ­ and people seemed happy with that until a few weeks ago. People have questioned my injury and age ­ they seem to think I'm 94, not 34."

Keane, who will wear the No 16 shirt he wore at United, will be paid £40,000 a week, about half what he was on at Old Trafford, but he said: "This is not a financial move and I'm not coming here for an ego trip, or to unwind."

Keane, one of the biggest signings in Celtic's history, was paraded to the media while over 300 fans gathered outside the ground, which appeared to refute the suggestion that the move had been viewed with scepticism by some of the club's supporters.

Keane said that Celtic would probably be his final club as a player and dismissed the suggestion that he was taking up a coaching post. He conceded that his discussions with Real Madrid had ended when they wanted to wait another week.

Keane said: "I think it was important that I took my time. It has been a strange few weeks having left United, but it's a great move. There has been a lot of speculation where I was going and where I wasn't.

"But I gave every club a chance and I spoke to all the managers. I spoke to Madrid last Tuesday and they explained they were looking to wait another week or so. Which is fair enough, but I wanted to make a decision and once my solicitor saw the contract then I thought, 'This is the club for me.' And walking around the club I feel comfortable. I met one or two of the players and I feel this is where I belong.

"I had 12 and a half years at United and that came to an end and it is time to move on. I wanted a new challenge, new environment, new manager, different staff and just a whole new challenge basically. I spoke to a few managers in the Premiership and I felt this was the best move really."

Keane said that staying in the Premiership was a "softer" option in that a move to Celtic means he will look for a property in Scotland. "I am not going into this half-hearted. I am not coming here to unwind. I have come to win football matches and help the squad and I am very much a team player despite all the reports. I feel I can help the club move on to the next level and that is winning trophies, which is what I'm in the game for."

Keane, who has not played since breaking a bone in his left foot in September, is expected to make his debut in the Scottish Cup tie at Clyde on 8 January.

"In football, you cannot get too far ahead of yourself," Keane added. "If you had asked me a few months ago that I would be sitting here talking about coming to Celtic I would have said you were mad.

"I had a great time at Manchester United ­ they are a fantastic club. The manager was great to me, but our relationship came to an end. We shook hands and wished each other well.

"United will go on and life will go on and Roy Keane will go on. I wish everyone well at United."

It was shortly before 3pm that Strachan and Keane emerged from the stadium to a huge roar from supporters, some of whom climbed on to cars and vans for a better view. Many snatched pictures of the player, who is having the same type of impact that the signing of Paul Gascoigne did for Rangers almost a decade ago.

Not everyone, however, is convinced Celtic have made the right move. Charlie Nicholas, the former Celtic striker, warned that Keane's arrival could signal a selection dilemma.

"Stilian Petrov used to play wide right for Celtic and he hated the position," Nicholas said. "So I don't see how they can play Roy Keane and Neil Lennon in midfield without moving Petrov to the right or the left and that is not suitable. There could be problems."

There are also concerns that Keane will prove too strong a character in the dressing-room, but Bertie Auld, one of Celtic's 1967 European Cup winners, said: "Celtic have a lot of strong personalities. Players like Chris Sutton and John Hartson know their job and their worth,"

The Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell, dismissed reports that the deal had been made using director Dermot Desmond's personal fortune and over the head of Strachan. The pair reacted angrily to the question and Strachan at one point asked: "Are you calling Peter a liar?"

Lawwell said: "A great player has joined a great club. We wanted him and we got him. There is total unity across the club. No divisions. There is no financial contribution that Dermot will make to this deal.

"Roy has signed an 18-month contract to June 2007, but he might be here a lot longer. He has joined Celtic for reasons other than money. Roy will fit well within our wage structure, which tells you a lot about the man.

"One of the reasons he is here is his passion for the club and his long-established willingness to come and play. Roy has had many offers, as late as this morning and he has turned down far more lucrative offers than Celtic."

Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager, admitted his disappointment at missing out. "That is a world-class player you are talking about. When you come so close ­ but yet so far ­ it is an even bigger disappointment than just a straightforward 'no'."

Celtic midfield generals

BOBBY MURDOCH 1962-1973

Rutherglen-born Bobby Murdoch was renowned for his passing ability. Played in the 1967 European Cup final win over Internazionale in Lisbon. Spent 11 years at Parkhead before joining Middlesbrough in 1973.

BERTIE AULD 1964-1970

Bertie Auld was an inspirational midfielder with a hard edge. Played alongside Murdoch in the 1967 Lisbon Lions team and still wears his winner's medal. Also played for Birmingham.

PAUL McSTAY 1981-1997

Some claim cultured the midfielder Paul McStay had an unfulfilled career and stayed at Celtic too long when he should have tried his luck in England.

JOHN COLLINS 1990-1996

Another supremely gifted midfielder who earned rave reviews for his performances at Celtic. Had fine passing ability. Scotland international who signed from Hibernian in 1990 before moving to Monaco after six years in Glasgow.

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