Rooney admitted Keane relationship changed after foul-mouthed argument

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Wayne Rooney and Roy Keane share a mutual respect for each other as Manchester United icons and former teammates, but there was a time when their relationship was thrown into jeopardy after a bizarre feud erupted between the pair. Rooney was known as a joker in his younger playing days, but it didn’t take the striker too long to realise the Irishman was not to be messed with after a playful prank quickly turned sour.

Rooney arrived at Old Trafford with a big reputation as England’s golden boy, having secured a £27million transfer from Everton in the summer of 2004. Keane, meanwhile, was enjoying the final years of his illustrious United career having won a multitude of Premier League titles and enjoyed playing a key role in their Treble triumph back in 1998-99.

As the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, Rooney now commands respect from all corners of Old Trafford, with Keane included. But things between the two got off to a rocky start after he attempted to get under Keane’s skin just months after joining the club.

That proved to be an error in judgement, however, as he was handed a shuddering reality check by the no-nonsense Irishman – triggering a row that would change the face of their relationship for years to come.

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The incident occurred before United’s match with Newcastle back in 2004, when the Red Devils squad were watching TV and eating together at the team hotel the night before the game on Friday. Keane, a keen rugby fan, decided to put a match for himself and his teammates to watch before heading off to grab his dinner.

In his absence, the United icon noticed someone had changed the channel. Rooney was the culprit – and the red mist descended shortly after Keane’s return to the room.

“We were in a hotel, the Friday night before a game – I forget where. The team would always sit down and have a meal together. There was a big TV in the room,” Keane said, recalling the incident in his 2014 autobiography, The Second Half. “I was into rugby league, and there was a big game on. I went to the toilet, came back and someone had changed the channel to something stupid. I can’t remember what it was.

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“A few of the players were sitting there, giggling away. I said, ‘Where’s the rugby league?’ I knew Wayne was up to something.

“I said, ‘Where’s the remote control?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘You f****** do’. I didn’t exactly storm out, but I couldn’t be bothered trying to get the remote control back, so I decided I’d watch the rest of the match up in my room.”

Rooney would live to regret making Keane the butt of the joke the following morning as he was handed a stern reprimand from his senior team-mate. The striker, who was 19 at the time, dared to revisit the argument by taunting Keane over the misplaced remote control, provoking a blunt and foul-mouthed response from the ex-United captain.

“I came down the next morning for the pre-match meal and Wayne was brave enough to come up to me,” he added. “‘Did you ever find the remote control, Roy?’ I think I told him to go and f*** himself. It was the only disagreement I ever had with him.”

Reflecting on the incident, Rooney admitted he risked a flare-up with Keane with his antics. But, in reality, the row actually appeared to strengthen their relations.

Keane’s admission that it was “brave” for Rooney not to back down and their only falling out as teammates suggests that the incident laid the foundations for a solid future relationship.

“I always remember my first away trip, having that argument with Roy Keane,” Rooney said back in 2018. “We were watching the rugby before we were playing Newcastle away. He went to get some food, so I put X-Factor on and hid the remote. He wasn’t happy about it and we had an argument. But I think straight away, he respected me more for standing up to him.”

Even if tensions had threatened to bubble over, it didn’t seem to impact United on the pitch. Rooney scored twice in a 3-1 win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, with both players playing the full 90 minutes before their trip back to Manchester with all three points in the bag.

Now, things are more civil between the pair whenever they cross paths, with Keane saving his anger for Manchester United as a pundit for Sky Sports, while Rooney is currently the head coach of MLS outfit D.C. United. One can only hope the next time they get together, Keane keeps the remote firmly in his sights.

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