Paul Pogba’s record-breaking transfer back to Old Trafford earlier this summer got me thinking. Thinking about the players who the Frenchman played with during Manchester United’s FA Youth Cup success in May 2011. Along with Pogba, Sam Johnstone and Jesse Lingard are the only players that remain at the Theatre of Dreams. The rest have gone their separate ways, deemed surplus to requirements or left the shining lights of Manchester in search of regular first team football. One of which is centre-back Michael Keane.
Keane joined United at the age of 11 and spent much of his teenage years as a full-back mainly due to his frame, which was described by United’s website to be “small in stature for his age”. That would soon change as he quickly caught up in terms of physical development and became an integral part of the Reds FA Youth Cup winning side in 2011. His growth spurt saw him shift across to centre-back where he has played ever since and in October 2011, five months on from lifting the FA Youth Cup, he was handed his first-team debut when he replaced Ezekiel Fryers in the fourth-round victory over Aldershot Town in the League Cup. Despite getting a sniff of the first team in the League Cup, Keane had to wait three months before the opportunity would arise however was an unused substitute in United’s fourth-round exit of the FA Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool in January 2012.
Whilst flirting with the first team, Keane was a rock for the United reserves during the 2011/12 season as they triumphed in the Reserve League North and the national play-off final. Keane made 27 appearances for United’s reserve’s that campaign, scoring five goals in the process and in doing so was named Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year, pipping Jesse Lingard and Larnell Cole for the award.
Keane made his full first team debut in September 2012 as the Reds beat Newcastle United in the third round of the League Cup at Old Trafford. Captain for the evening Darren Fletcher hailed Keane’s performance alongside fellow debutant Scott Wootton at the heart of United’s defence as “fantastic“. The youngster’s impressive performance in the previous round saw him line up against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in round four however United were on the wrong side of an incredible game which finished 5-4 to the hosts after extra time.
That would be the last time Keane appeared for the Reds during the 2012/13 campaign as Championship side Leicester City captured the 19-year-old on loan. The loan deal was only originally supposed to last a month however Keane’s impressive performances saw Leicester extended his deal until the end of the season. He made 27 appearances in all competitions for the Foxes, scoring three times. Leicester finished sixth that season in the final play-off spot, however, were beaten in extraordinary fashion by Watford in the semi-finals.
Loan spells at Championship sides Derby County and Blackburn Rovers would see Keane spend the majority of the 2013/14 season away from Old Trafford however returned in time for United’s final home game of the campaign against Hull City where he was named as an unused substitute under the interim management of Ryan Giggs following David Moyes’ inevitable sacking a couple of weeks earlier.
Louis van Gaal was named the Manchester United manager in the summer of 2014 and Keane was named in the squad that would tour of America during pre-season. The then 21-year-old featured throughout the tour and was involved in wins over the likes of Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid! Keane was named on the bench for United’s opening day defeat to Swansea City and made his league debut for the club in the game that followed, replacing Chris Smalling in the first half of the Reds 1-1 draw away to Sunderland. Little did he know at the time, that was the first and last time he would appear for United in the league as he was shipped out to fellow Premier League side Burnley on loan with the move later being made permanent.
Keane made 23 appearances in all competitions during the second half of the season however Burnley’s stay in the top-flight came to an abrupt end at the first time of asking when they were relegated with two games to spare. As quickly as Burnley were relegated from the promise land, they were soon back among England’s elite clubs following a solitary year in the Championship in which they were crowned champions. Keane played 46 times for the Claret’s last season, contributing 5 goals as Sean Dyche’s side racked up 93 points.
And that brings us to more recent times. Where only last month, Premier League champions Leicester City were rumoured to be in for the central defender, who enjoyed a successful loan spell with the Foxes during the 2012/13 campaign. According to reports, the newly promoted side rejected two bids from the English champions for the services of the 23-year-old however the transfer window slammed shut on the 31st August and Keane remained a Burnley player. The defender has started and finished all four of Burnley’s Premier League games this season where they have amassed four points and currently sit 15th. I believe the former United player has a bright future ahead of him, whether it be at Turf Moor or elsewhere. Should Burnley stay in the top-flight this time round, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a stable Premier League club made a move for the defender during the coming transfer windows.