Manchester United miss having a midfielder like Roy Keane at the club, something that has pained me over the years. I have thought about what could have happened if the Irishman remained at the club, what United could have added to their achievements.
But more importantly, it was probably the best time for it to happen in order for United to start something new again; the squad to be rebuilt for another generation. Keane signed for United from Nottingham Forest for £3.75 million, a British transfer record at the time.
Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish has a verbal agreement with Keane at the time Sir Alex Ferguson swooped in and stole the player from under Dalglish’s nose. A massive coup for Ferguson. Keane was young and talented with the aggression to succeed.
“My regret was that I should have gone abroad earlier in my career. I could have signed for Juventus or Bayern Munich. I had much better financial offers from them, but at the time I wanted to stay at Manchester United. I felt at home at Old Trafford.”
Keane was an idol of mine, a player who gave as good as he got, if not more, standing his ground and not letting anyone get one over him. Alf-Inge Håland knows that only too well. Keane played for United for the best part of thirteen seasons.
It was a great period of time with the player filling the void which would later be left by Bryan Robson, wearing the captain’s armband and being the voice, the aggression, the thunder and the lightening of Ferguson’s United team. Keane did not take much stick but gave a lot.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s with Arsenal on the rise and challenging United for Premier League glory, Keane and Patrick Vieira, amongst others clashed a lot of the time. There was one match, in particular, played in the early 2000s with Keane and Vieira clashing in the tunnel.
This was seen live on Sky Sports and around the world in which you heard Keane angrily say; “I’ll see you out there”. Those were the days. Keane was the captain, leader and legend and as I was growing up, he was one of my idols.
I always wanted to be a midfielder like Keane, but with two left feet, it was never going to happen for me. Keane, at that time, was the be all and end all of United for me, and perhaps he will always have a place in my heart, a time where things were great.
“The only reason I ended up leaving Manchester United was I appealed a £5,000 fine. If I hadn’t appealed the fine I wouldn’t have left Manchester United – don’t be brainwashed by the propaganda and lies.
“It is peanuts, you get fined that for being late for training at United. I appealed because I felt I shouldn’t have been fined for speaking about a match on the club station.”
The end of the player’s career at United in 2005 was a bad one, criticism of his own teammates on MUTV seemed to do enough for Ferguson to decide that he was done at the club. He signed for Celtic as soon as the transfer window was open, still getting his testimonial at United.
Keane, at least as a player will always be a legend for me. A player, who at his prime, will always be the type of player any team would want. Blackburn missed out on a player who would have strengthened their side and may have seen them win more than one Premier League title.
To see Keane in his United playing days will always get my attention. The fact he was a winner, demanded his side win, lifting seven Premier League titles, four FA Community Shields, four FA Cup trophies, one UEFA Champions League trophy and one Intercontinental Cup.
Keane played 480 times for United, scoring 51 goals – 1992 to 2005 will always be a great era for United, the foundations were built to knock Liverpool off their perch, which Sir Alex Ferguson completed before he retired, and Keane was part of that too.
“Have I stepped out of line? Damn right I have. Manchester United fined me about £500,000 over my career but that is because I was sent off and I always held my hands up.
“Ironically when I appealed a £5,000 fine that’s when I left the club. I wished they played this video, it is propaganda, ‘we had to destroy it’. How do you even destroy a video?
“I left with my head held up high, I was fine with my actions, I always felt my intentions were to do the best for Manchester United.”
Management may not have been right for him, not at the time anyway but coaching and punditry seem to work, despite his criticism of United, which was partly right, saw him slated by United fans. But doing what he is doing now, as a pundit, seems to fit him like a glove.
Keane will always be a legend to me for what he did on that pitch, his thoughts will not ruin that for me. Looking at what he has been saying recently, Keane certainly knows his stuff and sees United as that team he still shares his heart with.
Written by John Walker