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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson backs Keane to be a big success

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced Roy Keane has what it takes to be a top class manager.

The pair go head-to-head for the first time at Old Trafford tomorrow as Manchester United look to take advantage of Sunderland's injury crisis by recording the second win of their Premier League title defence.

While some pundits felt Keane was too much of a firebrand to succeed in the management game, Ferguson always believed otherwise.

The Irishman impressed his old boss with the way he methodically went about attaining his coaching badges and the studious manner he watched games when he was not involved.

And it has come as no surprise to Ferguson that Keane has enjoyed such a successful start to life on Wearside.

'Roy has the wherewithall to be a top-class manager,' Ferguson told Setanta Sports. 'Some people can't make decisions. Roy can. He is a good decision maker.

'I spoke to him several times about being a manager and when he started to take his coaching badges I felt he was doing things in the right way.'

Although it appeared the pair had parted in acrimonious circumstances when Keane was shown the door by Ferguson in November 2005 amid the fall-out from an outburst on MUTV by the former United captain which was so severe it was never broadcast, the pair remain in frequent contact.

Keane often texts Ferguson for snippets of information, a telling fact in itself given the few people he actually offers his mobile number to.

And Ferguson still puts his £3.75million signing from Nottingham Forest at the top of his list of players.

Maybe not the most talented - but the best.

'I always felt there was a bit of myself in Roy,' said Ferguson. 'He did not have the ability of someone like Eric Cantona or Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes but he had this fire in his stomach which gets them there.

'He was not the quickest player but he was always first to the ball. In terms of sheer influence, he was the best player I have ever had.'

In an earnest interview with Des Lynam, Ferguson was happy to explode a few myths and also touched on his remaining aspirations.

Approaching 21 years in the job, Ferguson has won every major honour more than once, with the notable exception of the Champions League.

And, as he learned that Sporting Libson, Roma and Dynamo Kiev will be the Red Devils group phase opponents in this season's competition, the United boss confirmed a desire to bring European football's greatest club prize back to Old Trafford again.

'Two European Cups are not enough for Manchester United,' he said. 'Winning another is the one remaining great ambition. It has to be.

'You see all the great names on the trophy who have won it numerous times but none of them are greater than us.

'We have been in the semi-finals quite a few times but only reached one final. We have to improve on that record.'