The two sides of Roy Keane: How Man Utd legend showed his best and worst on April 21

ON THIS DAY IN 1999 AND 2001: Two years apart on April 21, Manchester United legend Roy Keane showed his very best and worst sides to sum up his glittering but scarred Old Trafford career

Roy Keane showed his best and worst sides on April 21, two years apart
Roy Keane showed his best and worst sides on April 21, two years apart

Whenever April 21 rolls around, Roy Keane is probably out enjoying the spring sunshine, walking his dog around Hale while lamenting where Manchester United’s season has gone wrong.

But as most Red Devils supporters will know, that date is synonymous with their legendary ex-captain.

Look back on Keane’s 12-year career at Old Trafford and you’ll find plenty of flashpoints, but the uncanny connection between two of his most memorable moments battling in a red shirt is impossible to go beyond.

Why? Because it typified the two sides of the icon; the one a dad remembers as a talismanic leader and born winner, and the one the son knows from his rants on live television and YouTube compilations of his tough tackles.

It was either side of the new millennium, 1999 and 2001, when Keane demonstrated his yin and yang, so here’s a look back at the Irishman’s career-defining date, April 21.

A captain’s goal

The story starts in Turin.

Roy Keane has spent six years at Manchester United, winning the Premier League three times and the FA Cup twice. There’s one thing left to conquer: Europe.

Sadly for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, their continental mission isn’t going to plan. 11 minutes into the second leg of a Champions League semi-final at the Stade Delle Alpi, Filippo Inzaghi has put Juventus 2-0 up. Having played out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in round one, United look down and out.

Arise, captain Keane.

After Ciro Ferrara blocked Andy Cole’s cross and the ball bounced out a corner, David Beckham’s enticing ball was met by a flying red shirt, who buried a header into the back of the net to give the Red Devils hope in front of their travelling fans. As commentator Clive Tyldesley labelled it “a captain’s goal,” the Irishman wheeled away not in celebration, but determination.

But his battling spirt came at a cost, as a stray Jesper Blomqvist pass caught Keane off guard, forcing him to scythe down Zinedine Zidane and pick up a yellow card. But it wasn’t just any booking, it was one that would rule him out of the final if United were somehow come from behind and reach Barcelona.

Keane’s yellow card against Juventus meant he was banned from the 1999 Champions League final


Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Adjusting his armband and letting rip on Blomqvist, Keane wasn’t downing tools. His anguish fuelled what Ferguson described as “the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field; 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,” he went on to say, six years before he would fallout with his lieutenant and end their victorious relationship as player and manager.

As Keane continued to drive his team on from the heart of midfield, up against Zidane and World Cup winners Didier Deschamps no less, it wouldn’t take long until they were level, as Dwight Yorke made it 2-2 before half-time and Andy Cole netted a dramatic winner in the 83rd minute.

It capped cap what Gary Neville labelled “our best ever performance” on the road to winning in Barcelona and becoming the first and only English club to win the famous treble.

The catalyst for that display never had any doubt about leaving everything out on the Stade Delle Alpi pitch either, declaring: “Do you think if I played on my own I’d have got the final? No chance. It was a good team effort throughout the whole campaign.

“I managed to score against Juventus. I was just doing my job.”

Cold-blooded revenge

Exactly two years on from his heroics to help the Red Devils lift their first European Cup since 1968, Keane became the villain in the eyes of many, exacting revenge on Alf Inge Haaland in one of the Premier League’s darkest moments.

Back in September 1997, only weeks after beginning his first season as United captain, a 26-year-old Keane had his career put on hold by rupturing his cruciate ligament in a clash with Leeds at Elland Road. Rolling around in agony on the Yorkshire turf, the colossus was accused of feigning the injury by a seething Haaland.

He wasn’t and Keane, who missed the rest of the campaign, wouldn’t forget.

By 2001, he’d recovered in style and added enough medal to his trophy cabinet to become one of English football’s most decorated players. But he still had a score to settle, as Haaland rocked up with Manchester City for a fiery derby.

Haaland accused Keane of feigning an injury in 1997 when he ruptured his cruciate ligament


Daily Mirror)

Five minutes from time, shortly after Steve Howey equalised for the Citizens to boost their chances of survival, Keane saw red in more ways than one; unleashing a horror tackle on Haaland’s right knee to see him sent off, paying a £5,000 fine and being given three-game ban for getting his own back.

Supporters, pundits and teammates suspected revenge – and they were right. In his autobiography, released a mere 16 months later, Keane wrote: “I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

That led to the FA serving him a further five-game ban, costing him an extra £150,000 despite claiming his ghost-writer had taken some of his comments out of context.

Amid the widespread condemnation, he maintained in an interview with the Guardian that he had no regrets about the challenge: “My attitude was, f*** him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f***** me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.”

Keane even said he’d probably do it again.

Keane doesn’t regret his horror tackle on Haaland in the 2001 Manchester Derby


Action Images)

Join the debate! Is Keane Man Utd’s greatest ever captain? Comment your pick below.

Haaland, father to Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling, recovered from the tackle to complete the match and starred for Norway over the international break. But the defender’s career would soon be over prematurely due to a long-standing injury to his other knee.

As Keane walked down the Old Trafford tunnel, the hero of Turin had turned into a villain, encapsulating a career filled with his ravenous love for the game and hatred for those who wronged him throughout.

Now, as football fans lap up the contrasting sides of the grizzled pundit and mercurial Instagram user, April 21 is the only date you need to learn about Roy Keane the player.

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