Roy Keane says he was “excited” when Manchester United signed Juan Veron and saw his arrival as a “challenge” to keep his place in the starting lineup.
Veron moved to Old Trafford in in June 2001 for a fee of £28.1million, breaking the record for the highest fee paid by a British club at the time.
He joined the likes of Keane, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt as Sir Alex Ferguson’s midfield options for 01/02 season as United prepared for the defence of their league title.
However, his time at United was disappointing with the Argentine managing only two years and 82 appearances for the club before being sold on to Premier League rivals Chelsea for almost half the price paid to sign him from Lazio.
Despite that, Keane says that Veron’s presence did improve the squad and the competition for places actually helped the team to develop.
Speaking to Sky Sports, cited on the Metro, the Irishman said: “I always enjoyed that. That was probably my favourite part of being at a brilliant club.
“When I first went to United you had Incey [Paul Ince], Robbo [Bryan Robson], Butty [Nicky Butt] coming through, Scholsey [Paul Scholes], and then Veron.
“I used to get excited when the club would sign a big player because that’s the nature of the game. Even when I first came to United, I remember shaking hands with Robbo, a player I had big respect for, but Robbo knew I was after his position.
“So when other lads were coming through, and even Veron’s a good example. Veron came to the club, he was an excellent player, okay it didn’t work out for him at United, but he was an excellent player.
“I never thought I was any sort of leader, I knew I had to work hard every day to prove myself to get into that starting XI.
“So when Veron came to the club I enjoyed it. I knew it would be another challenge for me, and a lot of my biggest challenges for me when I was a player, and it might sound arrogant, was our 11 vs 11 at United.
“It might be on a Tuesday or a Thursday, we’d have 11 vs 11, and I’d be stood next to Incey, Butty, I’d look across and be up against Scholsey or somebody else and we’re thinking, ‘this is a training game here, and we’re going to get stuck into each other, we’re going to run, boot each other, determined to win this game on the training ground’.
“Some of my hardest games were during the week, not on a Saturday, they were against my teammates, and that’s what I think it helped the team, particularly in the midfield area where I thought we were very, very strong.
“I’m just talking about central midfield, not talking about people Sharpey, Giggsy, Becks, Andriy, they were all brilliant players.
“But in terms of battles in the middle of the park at the club, it was fantastic. We talk a lot about Scholsey, Scholsey was a brilliant player, but Nicky Butt was also a fantastic player. Good character, good banter in the dressing room, basically a guy you want to be in the trenches with. I enjoyed those battles, and they were battles I had to try to win.
“I never felt it when people say I was the leader, I never felt that, I just happened to be the captain, but we had a lot of good leaders in the dressing room. A lot of lads with a lot of games under their belt, a lot of lads with international games, I just happened to have the armband.
“There were a lot of good leaders in that dressing room, I just happened to be very fortunate.”
Keane was captain of United between 1997 and 2005, leading them to ten major trophies in that time before seeing the armband given to Gary Neville ahead of the 2005/06 campaign.
The fearsome midfielder then moved to Celtic in January of 2006, bringing an end to a twelve-and-a-half year spell in the North West of England.
Meanwhile, another team are reportedly preparing a move for Paul Pogba with United now expecting a bidding war to take place for the midfielder when the transfer market reopens. Read more here…