ROY KEANE has dismissed suggestions that he does not rate Scotland star Darren Fletcher or consider him good enough to play for Manchester United.
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Fletcher was one of five Old Trafford players reportedly criticised by Keane in an interview with United's own television channel, MUTV, at the end of October. The infamous "Roy Keane Plays the Pundit" interview was never broadcast after being shown to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, although its supposed content leaked out to the media. The episode accelerated the end of Keane's United career after 12 years at the club.
Keane was said to have identified Fletcher for criticism along with fellow Old Trafford players Alan Smith, John O'Shea, Kieran Richardson and his fellow Republic of Ireland international Liam Miller - the midfielder Keane was instrumental in tempting to United from Celtic in 2004. The alleged comments were made as Keane was invited to analyse United's 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough. Of Fletcher, he was reported to have said: "I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher." Days later Fletcher delivered an exquisite response by scoring the only goal as United defeated Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Having moved to Scotland to finish his career with Celtic, though, Keane last night attempted to set the record straight on his opinion of the 21-year-old from Dalkeith. "If you listen to any of my comments over the last two or three years, if I've given any player credit over the years it would be Fletch. Fletch will tell you that himself."
Keane maintained that he watched a tape of the unbroadcast show with his fellow United team-mates, who had no problem with its content.
"When I left United Darren was fine [with me]. I had no problem with Fletch. Again, the speculation over what I'm supposed to have said was sheer nonsense . . . sheer nonsense.
"I have been pushing for Darren to be in the United team for many a year. You ask him. If there's been a player who has given him more credit or praise on the training pitch than me then I'd like to meet him.
"Darren will tell you that. I'm not here to try and justify who I might like or not like or what I've said about players. But I've sat down and watched this video with all the players and every one of them was fine about it. They were all in agreement with what I said. If you are going to analyse a 4-1 defeat then analyse it.
"Apparently Darren played very well against Wigan in midweek. I was listening on the radio coming up to Glasgow and he seems to have played quite well. With any young player you're going to have patches where you'll have a dip in form. But a quality player will always come through and Darren is quality.
"I've said that all along. I think he's been Scotland's best player in the internationals I've seen recently. Against Italy, for example, he was fantastic. But I'm always pushing these young players."