Can Roy Keane get back into management? Three former teammates give their verdict

A decade on from his last managerial job, the Corkman is at risk of never returning to the dug-out
Roy Keane is pictured during his time as Sunderland manager

Roy Keane is pictured during his time as Sunderland manager

Kevin Palmer

It was the notion that he has become little more than a joke in the football community that sparked Roy Keane’s pulse into overdrive.

Amid a jovial festive YouTube chat with his unlikely TV buddy Micah Richards, the mood turned dark as the subject of Keane’s extinguished management career bubbled to the surface.

As Richards chuckled at the prospect that Keane could have been handed the chance to take over as interim Manchester United manager following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the one-time Old Trafford captain fantastic snapped back.

“Why would that be a joke? You said something about me falling out with players, but that is what managers do,” said Keane.

Roy Keane and Micah Richards have struck up quite a double act on Sky

Roy Keane and Micah Richards have struck up quite a double act on Sky

“Why jump to these conclusions? As a manager, you are meant to challenge people, you are meant to fall out with people. Managers do that.

“You can’t fall out with everyone, but there is no doubt in my mind that, and I don’t mean at Man United.... I could do it. I have managed in the Premier League. I have to fight my corner here, nobody else is.”

They are sentiments Keane firmly believes and yet this once great leader appears to be alone in still believing he has what it takes to be a manager.

Reputations are tough to build and even more challenging to repair and, 10 years after he was sacked by Ipswich in his last managerial role, the reality must be that it would take a brave chairman to offer him a return back to the game now.

Keane’s firebrand image has been backed up by a series of bust-ups with players and given his gravitas in the game, those fall-outs have created headlines others may not have attracted.

Yet speak to those who have shared a dressing room with Keane and they all offer up a different view of the Keane we all believe we know.

Roy Keane and Gary Neville of Manchester United clash with Robbie Savage of Birmingham

Roy Keane and Gary Neville of Manchester United clash with Robbie Savage of Birmingham

“Roy speaks to you straight and some people don’t like that, but I have always felt the reputation he has is not justified,” confirmed his former United team-mate Gary Neville, speaking to the Sunday World.

“The trouble for Roy has been that everything he has done has been high profile for a long time and I don’t always feel he has allowed people to see what he is really like.

“I shared a dressing room with Roy for a long time at United and he was the best captain, the best leader you could have had, on and off the field.

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“He demanded high standards of people, but maybe that’s why Manchester United won more trophies in the period he was at the club than any other club.

“It frustrates Roy that he can’t get a chance in management now and maybe club chairman see him as a risky appointment now given his reputation, but that isn’t entirely fair.”

Keane (right) with John Aldrige (centre)

Keane (right) with John Aldrige (centre)

Another former teammate John Aldridge offers up a similar character assessment as he reflects on his time with Keane in the Ireland squad, with their club allegiances not affecting their friendship.

Roy Keane and Andy Cole celebrate with their treble-winning Manchester United teammates

Roy Keane and Andy Cole celebrate with their treble-winning Manchester United teammates

“As a big Liverpool man and with Roy being at Manchester United, we probably weren’t cut out to be pals and yet I always got on great with him in the Ireland squad,” Aldo told us.

“In many ways, his personality is like mine. If I don’t like someone or disagree with how something is being done, I will speak up and I saw that with Roy a few times on Ireland trips.

“We all knew he didn’t get on too well with Mick McCarthy at the time and Roy wasn’t alone in that, but I always enjoyed his company and it is a shame to me that he hasn’t had a chance to go into management after his initial success at Sunderland.”

Keane’s infamous fall-out with Jonathan Walters and Harry Arter during his time as Martin O’Neill’s assistant with the Ireland squad may have been the final piece of compelling evidence that suggests his brand of aggressive man-management is not effective in the game anymore.

Yet former United striker Andy Cole begs to differ, as he suggests the talisman he still calls ‘Skip’ remains a valuable ally to this day.

“It annoys me the way people look at Skip,” Cole told us, at a BT Sport event. “People have come to conclusions on him and they don’t know him.

“I can guarantee that if Roy Keane walked into any dressing room, he would have the respect of everyone in there and if they were willing to work hard and give everything to the cause, he would give them that respect back.

“I’m sure there is a club out there that will give Roy a chance as a manager again, if he still wants to do it at this stage. You’d have to ask him whether he still believes that chance will come for him.”

Keane may well be Ireland’s greatest footballer and he is certainly our most talked about sporting personality of his generation.

Yet by becoming a caricature of himself in his role as an argumentative pundit on Sky Sports, the 50-year-old may well have reinforced the perception that he is a character who struggles to work with some delicate personalities that he will find in a modern-day dressing room.

Keane will take little solace from the fact that some of the best moments of Sunday afternoon drama in the Premier League over the last year have been provided by his post-match rants on Sky Sports. He would much rather be making the headlines on the touchline.

But in an era when fragility is celebrated, Keane appears to have had a red marker drawn through his managerial ambitions once and for all.

Roy’s rants

  • On David De Gea: “I give up on this keeper. I’ve been criticising him for years now and he just makes too many mistakes. I wouldn’t allow him to come back on the team bus after that performance.”
  • On Kyle Walker: “He’s an idiot. He’s a car crash, he keeps making these types of mistakes and is rightly punished for it.”
  • On Harry Maguire’s goal celebrations for England against Albania: “Puts his hands to his ears like he shutting the critics up? I think that’s embarrassing. He’s been a disgrace the last couple of months for Manchester United. He thinks if he scores there, he’s going to shut his critics up. Embarrassing.”
  • On Aaron Wan-Bissaka: “I don’t even think Crystal Palace would take him back now. He’s not good enough for Manchester United. No feel for the ball. No decision making.”
  • On Fred: “Anyone who tells me Fred is good enough for United – they’re in cuckoo land. Why do they keep picking him?”
  • On Pogba: “He is talented, but the guy has no desire. He doesn’t track back, he doesn’t work. This idea that he wants to be loved? Do me a favour.”
  • On Tottenham: “When I was playing, we always knew we’d beat Tottenham. There is a culture at that club that they enjoy getting beaten.”
  • On Ireland: “A real lack of quality in that squad. When your best player is Seamus Coleman, who is a full-back, tough times ahead. The lack of goals for Ireland are scary.”

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