It wasn’t often during his playing career that Roy Keane was bested in a midfield battle and he certainly didn’t like it when a young Cesc Fabregas went in hard on him.
In fact, Fabregas has revealed that he later discovered that the Manchester United hero was so enraged by one particular tackle that he wanted to ‘smash’ him in revenge. The incident came in United’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal in 2005, in which Fabregas and Keane, alongside Paul Scholes, lined up against each other in their respective teams’ midfield.
Despite being just 18 at the time and coming up against one of the best midfield in Premier League history, Fabregas showed no fear as he steamed into Keane with a crunching tackle — with a complete disregard for the Irishman’s ferocious reputation.
Keane, as one might expect, wasn’t best pleased with the tackle and soon went about plotting his revenge. Fabregas has revealed that his fellow Catalonian and ex-Barcelona teammate, Gerard Pique, who played for United at the time, later told him that Keane promised to give him a receipt.
“I tackled Roy Keane really hard and I felt really good about it because he was always giving me a tough time,” Fabregas told The Times. “A few years later, Gerard said to me that at half-time Keane said: ‘that Spanish friend of yours, I will smash him, he killed me.'”
Remarkably, Fabregas managed to stay unscathed and play the entire 120 minutes as the final remained goalless and was won by the Gunners on penalties. It would be the only trophy the playmaker would win during his time in North London.