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Keane reveals why he relished the ‘challenge’ of Veron’s arrival at Man Utd

Juan Sebastien Veron’s time in England may not have been regarded as a success, but the former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder has received praise from former teammate, Roy Keane.

Having massively impressed for Lazio, Veron was snapped up by Manchester United in back in 2001 to much excitement, though the Argentine failed to replicate his best form in the Premier League, being sold to Chelsea in 2003 and heading back to Italy the following year.

Rio Ferdinand recently suggested that the commanding and immovable presence of Roy Keane prevented Veron from being able to play in his preferred position, though the Irishman has admitted that the sheer strength and depth of United’s midfield ranks – including the ‘excellent’ Veron – only served to drive him on to be even better.

“I always enjoyed that. That was probably my favourite part of being at a brilliant club,” Keane told Sky Sports.

“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.

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“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.

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“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.”

Read – What if… every Premier League season of the 90’s finished on 13 March?

See also – ‘I wouldn’t take a pay cut’ – Keane defends players at ‘bigger clubs’ over wage cut criticism

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