Former Manchester United captain. Former Republic of Ireland captain. Pundit. Possible psychopath. It can’t be just us that think there’s something deeply unnerving about Roy Keane.
Throughout all his various guises – young marauding midfielder, iron-willed Old Trafford enforcer, fearsome throwback manager, uncompromising pundit and bearded coach – there’s been a unifying theme of brooding intensity in everything he does.
He has the look of someone who has seen and done unspeakable things.
Now a regular pundit, Keane continues to terrify and amuse – depending on how far away from him you are – on a regular basis.
Here are 11 quotes from his post-playing career that sum it up best…
He won’t be kidded on
“People talk about Ferguson’s man-management. Don’t be kidded on by all of it either. Don’t be kidded on by all that. Ferguson came out afterwards going, ‘Well I always did what was best for United.’ Nonsense. His son played for the club – won a league medal. Very lucky. His brother was chief scout for Man United for a long time. Listen, I’m surprised his wife wasn’t on the staff somewhere” – on Alex Ferguson’s failings.
It’s best not to get on the wrong side of Roy Keane. He holds grudges like you wouldn’t believe. Micky McCarthy will never be forgiven for Saipan and Alex Ferguson will never be forgiven for ushering him out of Old Trafford prematurely.
The nature of his departure in November 2005 still rankles with Keane. He was hung out to dry, his legacy tarnished, and he won’t stand for it.
Nobody has ever been as stubborn as Roy Keane. He’s right, and you’re wrong, so it’s best to just admit it now before he’s forced to engage in an agonising lifelong vendetta that benefits no one.
As part of his continued feud with Ferguson, Keane has tried to expose the flawed man behind the infallible myth. It might seem petty, but so be it. Roy Keane got where he is on merit. He wouldn’t accept any grubby hand-outs.
He knows what effort is
“If that’s a player giving it their all, then Man United are in bigger trouble than I even think, and I think they’re in huge trouble. Gary, Gary, it’s two yards, man! I guarantee if you did the same, do you think we’d be telling you off? If you didn’t close somebody down? Of course, we would” – on Luke Shaw’s lack of effort
Roy Keane can’t believe what he’s hearing. Gary Neville, the weakling who he had to personally defend from Patrick Vieira in the Highbury tunnel, is sympathising with Luke Shaw.
The United left-back failed to close down the ball to prevent Bernardo Silva from giving Man City the lead when the two sides met at Old Trafford in 2019. Neville claimed that Shaw was simply tired, but Keane wasn’t having any of it.
In his world, work ethic is everything. Desire. Willingness. Hunger. When a team’s struggling, the very least they can do is show a bit of fight. In his eyes, Shaw failed.
Roy Keane routinely pushed himself to the limits, and beyond, in pursuit of victory, and he’s scornful when others won’t. Especially if they choose to wear a hat during a warm-up, as Shaw did ahead of a game against Liverpool in January 2020. United duly lost 2-0.
He’d kick a team-mate
“If I was a team-mate of his, I’d kick him up and down the training pitch. Some of the senior players have got to get hold of him. A talented, talented boy, but his attitude, even last night, was like a spoiled child. It’s just absolutely ridiculous” – on Eden Hazard’s strop.
Roy Keane knows that you’re scum. Sub-human scum. He doesn’t need to say it. To go to the trouble of articulating why is so far beneath him that it barely even registers as an impulse.
Pleasantries are for the weak and mollycoddled. Pandering to them isn’t in his nature. It never will be. He doesn’t feel the need to grease the occasionally jarring wheels of human interaction. To deign to do so would be a waste of his time and yours.
But mostly his.
— Andy (@ajnmann) September 13, 2017
He doesn’t carry a stick
“I don’t go around with a stick, threatening people. We have given players the benefit of the doubt, but enough is enough. There comes a time when you have to say ‘Move on’. Liam is very happy here, but if you can’t get in on time for training then it doesn’t matter if he is happy or unhappy” – on Liam Miller’s lateness.
Roy Keane’s time is vitally important. In his world there are only two options. You’re either on time or late. There’s no such thing as early.
He’s never late. Missing deadlines or appointments is a sure sign that you should never be trusted. Mark Bosnich or Liam Miller might choose to arrive part way through training, but look what happened to their careers.
No excuses. Turn up, do your shift and don’t be flaky. It leaves more time for the important stuff, like questioning the moral fibre of lesser beings.
He can show restraint
“I said, ‘You should have fuckin’ passed it.’ And he went, ‘Well, how are we going to win anything with you as the manager?’ I nearly physically attacked him – but I didn’t” – on dealing with Pablo Counago.
Roy Keane doesn’t experience doubt. He has unshakeable convictions and absolute certainty in every thought and action. There are no shades of grey, only the stark extremes of black and white.
The world is divided into two types of people – honest, committed, unyielding types like himself, and everyone else. The lazy, shiftless bastards. Pablo Counago. Bullshitters and arselickers. The weak and weaselly. Mick McCarthy.
Fourth is nowhere
“When I see clubs like Liverpool, and even Man United, celebrating getting into the top four, I cringe at it, I really do. Do you think Real Madrid and Barcelona would be celebrating getting to fourth? Come on, get a grip” – on winning and success
Roy Keane is relentless. He has a psychotic will to win. Whether it’s a disagreement over training facilities or a Premier League title decider, he has to come out on top. Second is nowhere.
No matter how long it takes, he will grind you down. Resistance is futile. Try to hold out if you want, but it will only make him madder, and you won’t like him when he’s mad.
You won’t much like him when he’s calm either. It’s a rare occurrence, and even then he’s still to be approached with extreme caution.
“Whose phone is that? That’s the second time it’s gone off. Why don’t you turn it off? You’re sitting there, it’s the second time it’s gone off. Why don’t you put it on silent? Why don’t you turn it off? You’re just going to let it ring? Oh right, that’s good manners” – on a reporter’s phone ringing during a press conference.
Roy Keane despises modern technology. There are too many mobiles, annoying ringtones and indecipherable apps around now. The Crazy Frog truly was the harbinger of doom, omen of the forthcoming apocalypse.
Getting in touch was easy enough before all this iPhone nonsense anyway. If you wanted to speak to someone you’d run to their house at a steady and remorseless pace. If they weren’t in, bad luck. It built character.
Kids these days don’t have character. They’ve gone soft, just like Arsenal.
Throwback to Roy Keane's reaction when a phone goes off in a press conference 😂😂pic.twitter.com/S2rPNZ4lVU
— Fanzine Football (@Fanzine_com) August 10, 2021
He doesn’t like gloves
“When they’re in that form and have that amount of possession, they’re great to watch – they could’ve scored seven, eight, nine goals easily. But the crunch games are still to come for them, when the cold nights come in, with half the Arsenal players with their gloves on, so I wouldn’t be getting carried away” – on Arsenal’s fragility.
Roy Keane hates gloves. Despite existing since the days of antiquity, he regards them as a recent discovery, a strange indulgence.
People who wear gloves are pathetic and deserving of utter contempt. The cold is to be embraced, encouraged even. It keeps the mind sharp and the hands brutally chapped. No benefit has ever been derived from wearing gloves. Even goalkeepers should cast them aside. Suffering is good for the soul.
“An absolute disgrace. I just hope some players are getting a hold of him. Whether it be the manager or some senior players, that shouldn’t be accepted at Manchester United” – on Ashley Young diving.
Roy Keane won’t put up with diving, and rightly so. It turns his stomach. The mere thought of it makes him physically wretch and begin shaking uncontrollably. Pure, unadulterated rage rises up within him.
It’s the ultimate evil, the cardinal sin, perhaps even worse than wearing gloves. It symbolises the fundamental dishonesty and corruption at the heart of football. If you’re prepared to cheat an opponent so brazenly, where will it stop? What other heinous crimes are you capable of?
He knows what a leader looks like
“When I see (Kieran) Gibbs with the captain’s armband on at the end of the game, you’re in big trouble. If he’s your captain or your leader, if he’s the guy who’s going to bring everyone together, you’re in huge trouble” – on leadership.
Roy Keane is old school. He remembers a time when men were men – strong, virile, intense, brutally competitive, and filled to the brim with barely concealed fury. They don’t make them like they used to.
You can have all the ability you want, but you’ll get nowhere without grit and determination. Too many clubs lack leaders at the moment. The sort of man who would scream directly into a young player’s face until their eyes filled with hot, salty tears if they had the temerity to misplace a pass.
He knows what’s important
“Rolex watches, mansions, garages full of flash cars, set up for life. Forgot the game, lost the hunger that got you the watches, cars and mansions” – on Manchester United losing their way.
Roy Keane despises glitz and glamour. In its current form, the Premier League is a slick monstrous marketing machine, and he’ll have no part of it. Players are paid too much and spend their ill-gotten earnings on garish, showy nonsense.
Kieran Richardson once bought a nice watch and hasn’t been allowed to forget. He never quite made the cut at Manchester United and is now without a club. This is no coincidence.
Often, Roy Keane doesn’t even need words. He’s never short of a controversial opinion or withering comment about the absurdity of modern football – its over-engineered sense of showmanship and its bratty, cossetted players – but silence is often best.
Words can be a needless frippery for a man who deals only in essentials. The black-hearted, bone-chilling stare is enough.
And nobody can imbue a mere look with such clear and unquestionable meaning. The disdain is palpable. Roy Keane hates you.
By Sean Cole