The word legend is thrown around very loosely today but if one player fits the mould at Manchester United, it’s certainly Roy Keane.
Arguably the club’s greatest ever captain. A warrior who set the example for many of the glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson and someone whose presence has never quite been replaced in the dressing room.
Whilst the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and later van Nistelrooy, Rooney and Ronaldo were taking the headlines, Keane was the constant. The leader. The glue. It’s hard to think of a more valuable player at Manchester United in modern history for what he gave both on and off the pitch.
Not necessarily known for his goal scoring with just 51 goals in his 480 appearances for United, Roy Keane still stepped up at crucial moments when his team needed him. Here are his top five goals in a red shirt.
5) v Sturm Graz – Champions League Group Stage - 1999/00
My list will follow a theme of importance rather than the quality of the goal, so this is the only exception in what was a thunderbolt against Sturm Graz in the Champions League group stage.
A David Beckham free-kick hit the wall and bounced back to Keane who took one touch and hit the ball on the half volley - and it stayed hit. It flashed past the hapless Sturm Graz goalkeeper and lashed in off the bar. It’s hard to think of a better Roy Keane goal on quality of strike alone. Howitzer.
4) v Arsenal – Premier League 1999/00
With the Treble winners looking to defend their title, the biggest test of the season came just 4 games in at Highbury where England’s two heavyweights faced off.
Manchester United found themselves a goal down at half-time when Ljungberg opened the scoring. Both teams had their chances but it was Roy Keane who broke behind the Arsenal defence and slid the ball past an onrushing Alex Manninger to level the score.
This was the height of the Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira rivalry. With the score tied, Viera threw his head towards Keane who then promptly grabbed him by the throat. Today, both would have been sent off. Back then, both escaped even a booking. Take me back.
3) v Manchester City – Premier League - 1993/94
Following a midweek Champions League exit to Galatasaray, Manchester United travelled to Maine Road for the 129th Manchester Derby.
In typical United fashion, they found themselves 2-0 down at half-time with Niall Quinn scoring both for City. Eric Cantona came out in the second half like a man possessed and brought United back level with a brace.
Roy Keane’s first ‘big moment’ in a Manchester United shirt came in the 87th minute when he latched on to a Denis Irwin cross at the far post to slam home the winner and keep United on track for the Premier League title.
2) v Arsenal – Premier League 1999/00
A second entry from the same game where Roy Keane had already levelled the score at Highbury.
With just 2 minutes of normal time remaining and the score still level, Ryan Giggs took a shot from the edge of the box which then deflected into Keane’s path. Keane controlled the ball brilliantly and poked it past Manninger for the second time in under half an hour to secure all three points.
Manchester United would go on to win the title again, this time by a huge 18 point margin over Arsenal. The United and Arsenal games from that period will forever be etched in history, as will the Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira rivalry, but this goal ensured that this was the ‘Roy Keane game’.
1) v Juventus – Champions League semi-final 2nd leg - 1998/99
Was it ever going to be any other goal? The goal that epitomises Roy Keane and everything he stands for. With Manchester United trailing 2-0 in Turin thanks to two early Filippo Inzaghi goals, United looked beat. On the verge of their first European Cup final since 1968 and with eyes still on a Treble, it seemed over.
Step forward Roy Keane. A headed goal from a David Beckham corner on 24 minutes sparked both the comeback and Manchester United into life. “ROY KEANE WITH A CAPTAIN’S GOAL FOR MANCHESTER UNITED”. That commentary still rings in the ears of Manchester United fans 23 years later. A truly iconic goal.
Despite receiving a booking that would rule him out of the final just minutes later, Roy Keane went on to give a man of the match performance, almost single-handedly dragging his team to a Champions League final which he could play no part in.
For a midfielder who had goal scoring way down on his list of priorities, Roy Keane certainly came up with a combination of brilliant and important goals throughout his United career.
When I said ‘arguably’ the greatest captain Manchester United have ever had at the start of this article, I take it back. In my opinion, he IS the greatest captain this club has ever seen. They don’t make them like him anymore.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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