Roy Keane missed ‘Battle of the Buffet’ because of extreme diet

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Roy Keane missed the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ because he was on a diet.

Oh, the irony.

Rewind to October 2004. Arsenal were the defending Premier League champions after going undefeated in their previous campaign. Riding a 49-match unbeaten streak, the Gunners travelled to Old Trafford where they were finally defeated 2-0.

While the game was important because it ended Arsenal’s record unbeaten run, it is remembered more for the post-match antics that took place.

[ RELATED: Roy Keane releases new book “Second Half” ]

The “Battle of the Buffet” gets its name from the reports that Arsenal players threw pizza and soup and Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson in the tunnel after the match.

A physical and emotional match saw Wayne Rooney earn a controversial penalty, a reckless challenge by Ruud van Nistelrooy that garnered a three-game suspension and a food fight against a side captained by Patrick Vieira? Roy Keane must have been in the middle of everything…right?

Wrong. According to his new book “Second Half,” Keane says he missed the crucial match against Arsenal due to a ‘health freakish phase.’

I was going through my health freakish phase at the time. The dietitian decided I was eating too much red meat. I needed to cut back and eat more vegetables.

I came home and went on the new diet, but typical me, the man of extremes, I went too far. My body fat went down to 3 or 4 per cent. I went too skinny.

Mike Stone, the club doctor, did some blood tests. My iron levels were gone. I had no iron in my system. Mike told me I had to go back to eating red meat.

I was gutted that I’d missed the game, and all the fighting that went on in the tunnel afterwards.”

If Roy Keane had been in that tunnel, the Battle of the Buffet could have turned out more like the Thrilla in Manila. While we can only wonder what could have been, Keane’s book will certainly give some great insight into the life of one of football’s most enigmatic characters.