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21st April: The date which saw the best AND worst of Roy Keane's Manchester United career

Mirror logo Mirror 5 days ago Mark Jones
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It seems remarkable to think that it will soon be 17 years since Roy Keane last kicked a ball in anger for Manchester United, throwing open the prospect that there will be people reading this who never saw him play.

To them, he'll just be the that bearded, unimpressed Irishman growling through their television sets every couple of weeks, taking offence at Leicester City's fairytale or the Pogba brothers being nice to one another. 

But he was so, so much more than that.


At his best and worst, Keane was a force of nature. He was the type of player that you just don't get any more, driving his team on with a relentless will to win, or committing the kind of act which had more in common with a GBH charge than a football match.

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Often, the expression on his face would tell the story of whatever game he was playing in - if things were going for him or against him - and that was never more evident than on this day in both 1999 and 2001.

Because 21st April marks both the highest and lowest points for Keane in a United shirt, and here they are.

21st April 1999: Juventus 2-3 Manchester United - Champions League semi-final, second leg

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty

Before "that night in Barcelona" became something carved into the memory of every Manchester United fan old enough to witness it, there was a pretty special night in Turin.

After Antonio Conte's away goal had helped force a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, United fell 2-0 down after 11 minutes of the second in Turin after a brace from Filippo Inzaghi. Enter Keane.

The Irishman played like a man possessed, dragging his side forward and back into the game.

First he headed home David Beckham's corner to grab United an away goal, but then - in a midfield battle with World Cup winners Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane, as well as Edgar Davids - he was booked for a late tackle on Zidane, meaning he'd miss the final through suspension.

No matter, he still plowed on and played a huge part as goals from Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole completed the turnaround and put United into a final he knew he'd miss.

"It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field," said Sir Alex Ferguson years later, even after several rows with Keane.

"Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt such an honour to be associated with such a player."

And he's seen a fair few players.

21st April 2001: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City - Premier League

Credits: Press Association

Credits: Press Association
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Exactly two years later, the face of the defiant, victorious Keane was replaced by the snarling, angry vision standing over the distressed figure of Alf-Inge Haaland, the Manchester City midfielder who had just suffered a severe and indeed career-threatening injury.

For context here you need to go back to September 1997, when Haaland - in the white of Leeds - was believed to have laughed at Keane when he went down injured having tried to tackle the Norwegian. And it seems that a Munsterman never forgets.

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Back in the heat of the Manchester derby, Keane launched into a challenge on his opposite number in the City midfield, sending him spiralling into the air and collapsing in a heap.

This was revenge, and it had been served cold.

Keane was sent off, fined £5,000 and given a three-match ban, only to later admit that he had deliberately tried to injure Haaland in a book a year later, earning himself a further five-game ban costing him £150,000, even if he claimed that his ghost-writer had taken some comments out of context.

Either way, he couldn't hide from the challenge, or the fact that this date produced possibly the highest high and the lowest low in the Irishman's United career.


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