Keane and Able

They were former team mates at Nottingham Forest but Roy Keane and Alf Inge Håland were never friends. The real trouble started at Elland Road in September 1997 when a Roy Keane foul on Alf Inge Håland resulted in Keane acquring a career threatening cruciate ligament injury. Soon after with breathtaking callous indiference, Håland stated that Roy Keane had deserved the injury that he’d acquired at Elland Road that day, a sentiment like this was not going to be forgotten. After Roy Keane had made his infamous comment regarding some United fans and prawn sandwiches after a fraught European Cup victory over Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford in November 2000, Håland couldn’t help but stick his oar and criticise Keane for comments made that had absolutely nothing to do with him, the club he was skipper of or the fans of that club. Talk about pulling the tigers tail? City fans mistakenly and conveniently blame Roy Keane for ending Alf-Inge Håland’s career for that “challenge” in the Old Trafford derby in April 2001. When Keane done Håland, whether he meant to or not, he struck a blow for all United fans that afternoon. Håland had in his days as a Leeds United player, referred to Manchester United as “Munichs” and “scum” on his own personal website. When Håland joined newly promoted City in the summer of 2000, he was described as “articulate” by the easily impressed City correspondent, Chris Bailey in the Manchester Evening News (he who’s now head of PR at City). I can only imagine that anybody whom is bi-lingual is articulate in Bailey’s eyes.

Roy Keane in the process of injuring Alf Inge Håland so badly that Håland gets up two minutes later and finishes the game. Håland retired from football two years later with an injury to his LEFT knee

Almost two years before the Håland incident at Old Trafford, United were 2-0 down as David Beckham floated a corner in the Stadio delle Allpi in the 1999 European Cup semi final. Roy Keane appeared out of nowhere and unmarked, headed in what ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley, memorably called a “captains goal”. Ten minutes later chasing a sloppy and stray ball from Jesper Blomqvist, Keane inadvertently fouled Zinedine Zidane which lead to him getting a booking which would mean him missing the final in the Camp Nou should United qualify. Paul Gascoigne found himself in an almost identical position in the same stadium nine years prior when he lunged into Thomas Berthold in the first half of extra time in the World Cup semi final. For that foul, Gascoigne got a yellow card which would’ve ruled him out of the final. That night, the likeable Gascoigne famously started crying for himself and the media somehow made it out as if it was in some fit of patriotic fervour. Roy Keane in the same situation, drove himself and the team on with an almost manic determination and any thoughts for his own plight were relegated until post match. Keane, in a midfield battle with both Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane, grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and lead United to an unlikely victory of such profound consequences that the grand old lady of Italian football is only now finally recovering from that defeat. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole scored the other goals in a 3-2 win for United. Peter Schmeichel was impenetrable in the United net, Ronny Johnson and Jaap Stam played with the skill, grace and natural authority of Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen in their prime, but without Roy Keane, Juventus would’ve gone through to the European Cup final that night.

When Roy Keane suddenly left United in November 2005, the respective gushing statements released by both Keane and United stunk of enough bullshit to fertilize the entire state of Texas for a year. In the shell-shocked aftermath of the Glazer’s hostile takeover of the Manchester United and the role that Sir Alex Ferguson’s disastrous litigation proceedings against the clubs previous major shareholders and the significant part that played in the takeover, there was a cold frosty atmosphere around the clubs fans and players in the summer of 2005. United went out to the Algarve for some pre-season training in 2005 that Roy Keane openly opined to be a waste of time, which brought him into conflict with Ferguson. In a slowly brooding and deteriorating atmosphere between Keane and Ferguson, Keane broke his metatarsal at Anfield in September 2005 in what turned out to be his last appearance for the club. Six weeks later, United lost 4-1 in a spineless performance at the Riverside stadium whilst Roy Keane watched the match seething in a hotel bar in Dubai. Roy Keane was invited to appear on MUTVs Play The Pundit programme to assess of all matches, the game against Middlesbrough. The legend is that Roy Keane was as unflinchingly candid in his opinions offered on that programme as he was famous indeed, notorious for. MUTV pulled the programme on the orders of Sir Alex Ferguson and when the high noon showdown happened between Ferguson and Keane occured in front of the entire squad at Carrington, Keane as expected, was not in a conciliatory mood. Ferguson told Keane that he’d brought the club into disrepute and Keane retorted that after the Coolmore fiasco that Ferguson had initiated against John Magnier and JP McManus, he was not being told anything by Ferguson about bringing the club into disrepute. We’d reached endgame, there was no way back for either party after that exchange.

The first semblance of truth about Keane’s departure came out after his testimonial game against Celtic in May 2006. At the close of the 2005/2006 season, Sir Alex Ferguson had declared Ruud Van Nistellroy persona-non-grata at Old Trafford. Roy Keane almost immediately expressed his disapointment that his “good friend” Ruud Van Nistellroy was not welcome at Old Trafford for his testimonial. In August 2008, Roy Keane as Sunderland manager, told the Daily Mirror prior to a Nottingham Forest – Sunderland League Cup match that the much missed Brian Clough was “certainly the best manager I played under, without a shadow of a doubt”. That Brian Clough was a great manager is beyond dispute, even from people who didn’t like him. What is also beyond dispute is that by the time Brian Clough gave Roy Keane his first team debut for Forest at Anfield in August 1990, he was a washed up has-been who drank too much and frequently appeared on the television giving interviews whilst pissed. That he so emphatically stated that Clough was his “best manager” instead of Sir Alex Ferguson, a man under whom he played for twelve years and thus winning six league champions medals and four FA Cup winners medals, made it abundantly clear that Keane had irreversibly fallen out with Sir Alex. Later on, Keane let it be known that he was in regular contact with Rafael Benitez, who had become a friend of his for advice, just in case anybody missed the point first time around. That Keane and Ferguson had fell out was obvious, that didn’t mean Keane had to fall out with the club or fans of the club à la Mark Hughes. Up until last Tuesday night, Keane was regularly feted  by United fans when they’d see him on he touchline on European aways in his role of ITV pundit. Some United fans who have bumped into Keane  on European aways have told me that the feeling from Keane was far from mutual. I put that down to the possibility of Keane having a bad day, we all have them but the truth is, that is what I wanted to believe. The club and the fans of the club who had so stoutly defended him, particularly after the fiasco in Saipan in 2002 involving him and Mick McCarthy had been left in no doubt where they stood with the ruthlessly un-sentimental boyhood Tottenham fan.

Keane, told the Daily Telegraph in November 2008 that he would only consider a job in TV “if I fall on hard times”. In the same interview he said “My advice to anyone is don’t listen to the experts, Just watch the game and gather your own opinions.” This is something else he must have changed his proud and principled mind about. The most interesting thing to emerge in the aftermath of Keane’s contrivedly controversial comments on Nani’s sending off was the response of both Bryan Robson and Paddy Crerand. Both men have since the Ferguson/Keane fall out of 2005 have, on the surface adopted a silent and neutral stance to the antagonists (at least publicly) and Paddy Crerand is, whatever else anybody says about him, rarely neutral. That speaks volumes of the respect Keane was held in at Old Trafford that two historically revered figures of Man United never passed comment or judgement on him or his increasingly embittered rhetoric until last week. I don’t remember the ususally diplomatic Bryan Robson ever disagreeing with anybody as scathingly or vehemently as he did with Roy Keane’s crass post match analysis when he said “I think the only person in the stadium who thought it was a sending-off was Roy Keane. I’m glad Keane didn’t take up refereeing as a profession.” After the war of words that opened up between Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson in the wake of the Basle away match in December 2011, when Sir Alex said “Roy had an opportunity to prove himself as a manager and it’s a hard job,” no significant historical figure of or from United gave an opinion.

In the aftermath of Jaap Stam’s abrupt and now universally acknowledged mistaken transfer in August 2001, Roy Keane did say to the Guardian that “His transfer to Lazio illustrates how little power footballers have in the game. Contracts mean nothing. He has discovered that, to football clubs, players are just expensive pieces of meat. The harsh realities remain and when a club decide they want to sell there is little you can do once the wheels are in motion.”(Keane 2001)  This gives good illustration to Keane’s true feelings on his departure from United four years later. Keane struggled on a pittance from United for twelve years and then he had his contract paid up for the next eight months so he could then be free to go to Celtic and earn another six months of wages to tide him over. It’s a miracle that he somehow coped with the cruelty of it all. A year after that statement about Stam’s departure, Keane said in his autobiography that ‘the club has always been very good at recognising that everyone, from the ground staff and the laundry ladies to the office staff, tea ladies and those who man the stiles on match days is part of the Manchester United community. The manager is particularly good at nurturing this family atmosphere. Mancunians are lovely, warm and witty people (Keane, 2002: 194/195). This is not something I would expect Keane to say now.

The parting of ways between Roy Keane and Manchester United was clearly a fraught one. That Keane can be so obviously embittered and angry over that parting seven and a half years later is a special kind of anger to maintain and display to a club that made him a world famous figure and a finacial security that only a tiny fraction of the crowd who idolised him could barely comprehend. It may be a hard pill for people who admired Keane as United figure but Keane is bitter and Keane does not give a fuck for United, get the message fellow reds. He played for United and a truly fantastic player he was too but like Lesley Hughes his heart left United as soon as his P45 turned up at Michael Kennedy’s office. Don’t be lionising a player who treats the club with so much obvious disdain. Even though United have never properly replaced Roy Keane, his heart has moved on, we should too.

5 thoughts on “Keane and Able”

  1. The truly entertaining aspects of Keane getting so hot under the collar that even I was embarressed, was seeing Lee “Stockport-Blue” Dixon and Gareth “On the Fence” Southgate squirming!

    1. I saw that myself when I got back from the match and watched it on SKY+. The other irony I noticed was there was a blue who grew up in Bury (Dixon) and a boyhood red who spent some of his childhood in Bury (Southgate) disagreeing with an embittered legendary United midfielder who thought the referee called Nani’s sending off was a correct call. It was like science fiction but I’ve gotta say about Dixon, knowing that he’s a lifelong blue, he keeps his partisan views to himself when commenting and seems a pretty fair bloke, as for Keane, it’s a shame for the lad.

  2. You don’t have to like your heroes. Respect comes as part of the deal though. When the parting of the ways comes, it’s nice to have fond memories. The trouble with Keane is, he is law unto himself. He will have to live with it. People will judge him as a United player. Then judge him as an unemployed failure,( so far) as a manager. If what he said regarding Nani, was an honest assessment. OK. But when you’ve been grinding your axe the way he has, for so long, it looks to me as if he trying to earn some reputation as a forthright, and ruthless critic of his previous club. Everyone is entitled to a view on any aspect of any game. But taking the most radical angle, to me it was a cheap shot. A great player is turning to a man of straw. A sad decline. Hope the money’s good. Sorry for going so long, but he gets you that way. Great work Murph.

  3. As much as I love Robbo I’m not sure Keano was the only person in the ground to think it was a red card.
    I think Keano took his MUFC sacking (and let’s face it that’s what it was) very hard and will probably never get over it, but he’s not anti UTD, in his punditry he usually has nothing put praise for the club.

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