England defender looking to make United first team

Manchester United defender Michael Keane has revealed to The Sun how he had Rio Ferdinand’s name and number on the back of his shirts as a kid, and now he could be set to replace his hero at the Old Trafford club after Ferdinand, who was told he would not be given a new contract by the club at the end of the season, which makes the former England captain a free agent this summer, with a view offers from clubs in the Middle East and in the United States of America.

The 21-year-old England defender will be in action on Sunday against Portugal in the Toulon Tournament in the third place play-off. This season whilst playing for United and England U21 sides and whilst on loan with Derby County and Blackburn Rovers, Keane has shown his ability in a defensive role, where he can play centrally as well as in the right-back position. He has also scored a few goals, many from set pieces and all headers, which shows he can be the type of defender to come forward during corners and some free kicks, which is the United way. Keane is from a family full of United season ticket holders, something which the family is proud of, currently have both Will and Michael playing for United and England, albeit at youth level. Keane said:

“Everyone is United — my dad has been a season-ticket holder ever since he was young. It runs in the family.

“I always had Rio Ferdinand on the back of my shirt. He was my idol when he first joined United — and he still is.

“Luckily, I’ve managed to train with him for a few years and now I’m hoping to take his place. That’s my dream.

“I think I’ve got a chance of making it at United and, while I still think, I will stay and try and prove myself.”

Speaking about Rio Ferdinand leaving after spending 12 glory filled years at the Old Trafford club, Keane added:

“It’s sad to see him go. He was a great person to have around in the changing room and he was great with the young lads.

“He speaks to everyone and always gives you advice.

“He talks to me about positional things and, if you make a mistake in a game, he will ring you and say what you should do better.

“Even when I was out on loan, if he saw me on the telly making a mistake, he would ring or text me.

“It was a surprise at first but now I just see him as a friend. I know I can go to him whenever I want.

“He’s a really nice guy. Sometimes footballers get reputations but he’s not like that at all.

“Behind the scenes at the training ground, there is no one better to have around.

“He’s loud both on and off the pitch. He talks to everyone and we’re all going to miss him.”

Keane has shown his ability both for United’s U21’s and whilst on loan with Derby County and Blackburn Rovers. All of the managers he has played under have suggested he will be a talented player in the coming few years, and where better to be that at United. He may not be the player many supporters want to succeed the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic next season, but youth development is something United strive to succeed in. Louis van Gaal likes to give youth a chance and he has done so in his career many times. Keane has not just had one season of success though, he spent the 2012/13 season on loan with Leicester City, who this season won promotion to the Barclays Premier League, and was hailed by some supporters as one of the best players in that particular season. Keane said:

“My debut was against Kevin Davies.

“I didn’t win a header — and I got about 10 elbows.

“But, after a couple of games, you get used to it and you improve.

It’s a good place to show how good you are and show what you can do. You do get recognised.”

Michael’s twin brother Will is also playing for a position in the United first team, but as a striker. He was tipped as a future first team player a few years ago, but having spent the majority of a season on the sidelines with a knee injury and only returning to full fitness at the start of the season that just ended, it has shown that his progress has been hampered slightly since his injury. Personally I feel players like James Wilson will break through before Will, and should he end up renewing his current deal with United, he could break through into the first team in the coming few seasons.

Louis van Gaal has a proven track record for blooding in youth, just like Sir Alex Ferguson did, and Michael Keane will come highly recommended by second in command Ryan Giggs, who likes the players no-nonsense attitude towards wearing coloured boots like his team-mates are wearing. I remember players only wearing black leather boots as a kid and it was David Beckham being the first player I really remember changing that rule. Keane said:

“I have only ever worn black boots.

“At United, they used to force us to wear black boots up until the reserves and then we were allowed to choose.

“But I just don’t really feel comfortable in coloured boots.

“I get stick about it from everyone all the time. They call me ‘Referee’ because he is just about the only other one who wears black boots these days.

“As a defender, I can’t be wearing bright yellow boots to kick players!”

I do think Keane will get the chance as a defender in United’s squad next season. Whilst a lot of experience in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will have been lost, the likes of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have the experience to continue the clubs glory, but an addition may be likely with the club linked to Mats Hummels, Bruno Martins Indi and more recently Thomas Vermaelen, there is a chance the prolific Dutchman will bring in more experience to help settle his squad ahead of their most important season to date; clawing back the places between United and the current Barclays Premier League champions, Manchester City.

By Paul Bienkowski

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