There was an exchange before the two teams assembled alongside each other, before Keane made his feelings known in the tunnel. Referee Graham Poll was forced to intervene.
After the game, which United won 4-2, Keane explained the reasons behind his anger.
He said: “Patrick Vieira’s 6’4” and he starts having a go at Gary Neville.
“I said: ‘Come and have a go at me’. Simple as that.
“If players want to intimidate some of my team-mates then let’s have a go at some of the other players. They think Gary Neville’s an easy target. I’m not having it.”
Keane, Vieira and Neville comment on infamous incident
Aptly, Keane and Vieira were joined in the ITV studio by Neville himself, with presenter Mark Pougatch asking them all for their accounts on the tunnel exchange.
Vieira said: “I think it all started with Roy losing his temper.
“Before that, it was the rivalry between the two clubs. I think as an Arsenal player you always wanted to play against the best. At that time, United were the best team. It was challenging, it was tough, it was difficult.
“Obviously Gary, one of his strengths was intimidating people. At that time I was getting really frustrated about the number of challenges he was giving to Arsenal players.
“So as a captain and as a leader, I wanted to put him under pressure a little bit.”
Neville said: “Before we got into the tunnel to go out for the game, coming in from the warm-up, [Vieira] is chasing me up the tunnel screaming at me.
“So I go into the changing room and sit down next to Denis Irwin and said, ‘Vieira’s a bit annoyed. He’s just basically chased me up the tunnel’.
“Obviously I sat next to Denis, and Roy was next to Denis, so Roy heard that.”
Keane added that he was “irritated” with Vieira, which led to the famous tunnel confrontation.
He explained: “To be honest, I was just trying to mind my own business. Honestly, I was just focusing on the game, quite calm, getting into the zone.
“Gary was a little bit upset and he seemed a bit worried. I think I said to Gary, ‘Just forget about it’. Obviously we need to focus on the game.
“Then of course Patrick wouldn’t let it go – typical Arsenal bully. Then he started again in the tunnel just before the game started.
“That’s where I kind of got a little bit irritated.”
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