Roy Keane – The last of a dying breed

Roy Keane was one of Manchester United’s greatest ever captains and the joint most successful Irish footballer of all time recording an outstanding nineteen trophies at Old Trafford. He was a ferocious box to box midfielder that had all the makings of a midfield general. Keane first began to shine with his time at Nottingham Forrest and although he was a standout in Brian Clough’s team following the club’s relegation into the second division, his wage demands meant he was available to buy.

Clough at the time declared Keane as the ‘hottest prospect in football’ at the time. Their loss was his gain and as the song goes, Blackburn were also monitoring his situation but it was Sir Alex Ferguson who forked out a British record £3.75 million for the Irish warrior.

Although it was a huge fee at the time Keane wasn’t automatically inserted into the starting eleven instead he was considered a long-term replacement for Manchester United legend and captain Bryan Robson. He was the ideal fit and with Robson’s career slowly coming to an end Keane got his chance and instantly found himself a fan favourite completing a miraculous recovery at Maine Road, Keane clinching the game 3-2.

Keane went on to complete 326 appearances at Old Trafford over the space of 15 years and delivered numerous match-winning performances although Keane plays down his skills stating:

“You get it, you pass it to another player in a red shirt. That’s really all I’ve tried to do at Forest and United, pass and move, and I’ve made a career out of it.”

Few would argue that he was a truly special player. However, he combined his talents with a steely determination and will to win a type of attitude that is missing in the modern game.

Although he delivered an abundance of Man of the Match performances. There are a few that sit firmly in the mind more than others. Perhaps the clearest of all is that night in Turin where Keane cemented his legacy amongst the very best at Manchester United. It was the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final with the tie level at one each United needed to beat Juventus in their own back yard but they got off to the worst possible start, Filippo Inzaghi bagged a quick brace and the Reds were on the brink of elimination so were dreams of that historic treble.

However, Keane had different plans and performed like a man possessed, even though he picked up a yellow card that ruled him out the final he managed to score a glancing header to get United back in the game, the rest, of course, is history.

Although Keane was, without doubt, a legend his qualities were also his weaknesses and there are few players in this era of respect and comradery that replicate his traits and certainly none at the level Keane played at. His fearsome persona got him trouble more often than not and it may have been this that earned the love of the United faithful.

Cast back to the bitter Manchester United and Arsenal rivalry and there is a scene that both sets of fans will remember clearly. Shortly before a season-defining tussle between two of England’s giants at Highbury a tussle nearly broke out in the tunnel following Patrick Vieira’s comments towards Gary Neville and it was Keane being the captain and hard man that he was who put the giant Vieira in his place and in doing so inspired United to a 4-2 win with Gary Neville and co declaring that Keane’s actions had played a huge part in the win.

Although Keane’s time at United ended in a bitter feud with Sir Alex and it seems that he never really settled his dispute with the club he is a player that will always be highly regarded and a fan favourite. His style may not be repeated in today’s game and he probably wouldn’t have got away with the tactics and crunching challenges he was so famous for but his passion and mentality was second to none and it is that attitude that would go a long way in today’s team, however, it is a style that may soon be extinct.

Written by Josh Keifer

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