Michael Keane: Why Manchester United should have no regrets

The criticism Manchester United received from the football world at large was inevitable. For all of the work done to restore the club to its rightful state in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, it was Ferguson’s own mistake that cost the club a world record fee. £89 million, an £89 million blemish on the CV of the greatest manager who has ever lived. Ferguson’s failure is just one example of how even the giants of football can make the costly mistake of allowing a prodigious young talent to depart. United’s current manager, Jose Mourinho, is no stranger to this type of costly mistake, allowing both Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to leave Chelsea.

Fans, after witnessing these high-profile mistakes are more alert than ever to these risks and every sale of an Academy player is met with the fear that the club is missing out on a world beater. Michael Keane, former United youth product, has recently made the switch from Burnley to Everton for £30 million. United were repeatedly linked with a move for Keane and comparisons were frequently made to the Paul Pogba blunder. There were several factors that distinguished this case from Pogba’s. United did not miss out on Keane’s talent, they recognised they could not facilitate his development any further and made a move for the good of Keane’s career.

Michael Keane’s departure saw him find the first team chances he was starved of under Ferguson, David Moyes, and Louis van Gaal. Trapped behind the likes of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, and Phil Jones, Keane was never going to get the playing time he needed to find his form. Along with Keane’s success at Burnley, he has been capped twice by the Three Lions. This acknowledgement of the newly signed Toffee’s talent is a testament to the quality of the United Academy. In order to be considered in the same class as clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid players like Keane are important. Barcelona’s youth academy has produced players such as Giovani Dos Santos and Thiago Alcantara who despite not finding success at the Nou Camp were able to star for their club and national team sides.

United’s handling of Keane’s situation should be viewed as a victory for the club. The insertion of a sell-on clause means that the Red Devils earned around £6 million on top of his original £2 million transfer fee. Along with the financial gains made through Keane’s eventual development, a major positive for the club came from the example set by the centre-back’s willingness to explore options outside of the United set up. Players like James Wilson who continually struggle for game time could follow this model, allowing him to find his place in football. If Wilson was to move to a Championship side, find his form, and earn a big move United would stand to benefit.

This is the Keane model. The insertion of a buyback or a sell-on clause must be a requirement when players are allowed to leave the youth set up to ensure the club is able to make the most of the investment put into the player’s development. Keane is sure to become a regular in the Everton starting XI, further exhibiting Manchester United’s ability to produce Premier League calibre talent, upholding one of the club’s proudest traditions.

Written by Bobby Frazier


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