LONDON - Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has revealed that he was offered the club's iconic No. 7 shirt by then manager Alex Ferguson - so that David Beckham would not get to wear it.
Keane, who left Old Trafford in acrimonious circumstances in 2005 after years of dedicated and inspirational service, reveals the incident in his updated autobiography The Second Half.
The book was due to hit bookshelves today, but has mistakenly gone on sale at a supermarket in Manchester.
Maverick French star Eric Cantona had left United in 1997 and according to Keane, Ferguson was determined that Beckham would not get to don the No. 7 shirt, a number that had been worn by United luminaries such as Bryan Robson and George Best.
"At United, No. 7 was the iconic number," Keane wrote. "When Eric Cantona left, there was debate about who was going to be the next captain. I was quite relaxed about it. But there was his number, too - No. 7.
"Bryan Robson had it before Cantona and, of course, it went back to George Best.
"The manager pulled me into his office and said that he wanted me to wear the 7.
"I said: 'No, I'm not bothered.'
"And he said: 'I know Becks will f****** want it and I don't want him to have it.' "
However, Keane claimed that he did not give in and Beckham went on to lay his hands on the prestigious jersey.
Keane spent 12 years at United - eight as captain - and won seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League.
Beckham, who was part of the group known as Fergie's Fledglings, or the Class of '92, left United in 2003 for Real Madrid, after he fell out with Ferguson.
But unlike Keane, Beckham's fame has transcended football, particularly after his marriage to pop singer Victoria Adams, better known as Posh Spice of the group Spice Girls.
In his book My Autobiography, published last year, Ferguson admitted that he disagreed with Beckham's celebrity lifestyle.
He wrote: "David was the only player I managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game.
"He lost the chance to become an absolute top-dog player. He wanted to give it all up for a new career, a new lifestyle, for stardom."