Roy Keane’s 2020 has been of a microchosm of how football has gone this year: after a gentle start, he disappeared during lockdown – before coming back with a relentless bang that has barely taken him out of the headlines since.
After rejoining Sky Sports in late 2019, this has been the forthright former Manchester United captain’s first full year back as a Premier League pundit and, allied with his international football work for ITV, he hasn’t disappointed.
Given Keane’s affiliation with United, many of his best rants have been reserved for them in what has been another inconsistent year for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Kyle Walker was the victim of arguably his most vicious tongue-lashing, prompting a complaint from Manchester City, while he clashed with Jurgen Klopp as the Liverpool manager took exception to his analysis. On a lighter note, a blossoming bromance with Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards has shown Keane’s softer side.
Here, in honour of everyone’s favourite pundit, we take a look back at Keane’s 2020 – including some of his most spectacular put-downs.
Roy Keane has been at his scathing best in 2020 working as a pundit for Sky Sports and ITV
January 2020 feels like it was played out in a different world, when coronavirus was barely a speck on the map in China – but reassuringly Keane was still sticking the boot into United players. After a 2-0 defeat by Liverpool, Anthony Martial was the target.
Assessing a missed chance at 1-0 down, Keane said: ‘That sums up his career in a nutshell… you have to hit the target. That’s why that guy there is not good enough for Man United.’
Anthony Martial fluffed Manchester United’s best chance against Liverpool in January
Keane slammed Anthony Martial following his big miss during the game against Liverpool
Next up in February, it was two of Keane’s pet hates together in one: Arsenal and over-celebrating. As the Gunners beat Newcastle 4-0 to climb up to the dizzy heights of 10th, the Cork native was seething. ‘That was way over the top,’ he muttered. ‘I thought they were 10 points clear at the top of the league the way they were celebrating at the end. Forget Arsenal. You’ve beaten Newcastle 4-0. Ridiculous.’
Also in February came a rare appearance on Monday Night Football for Keane, and with it an entertaining exchange with Jamie Carragher. With his beloved Liverpool still on course for a Treble at this time, Carragher put it to Keane that Klopp’s side were better than the 1999 Manchester United vintage that Keane captained. Keane was having none of it, insisting only Virgil van Dijk would get into Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. ‘I’d bring Van Dijk in, maybe the right-back, but leave the rest, 4-4-2. If they go on and win the Treble this year, we’ll have a different conversation.’
If that underlined Keane’s affection for the 1999 side, then we didn’t have to wait long for a reminder of his disdain for the current United team after a David De Gea error against Everton. ‘As a manager, or a player, you’d kill him,’ he said, with his expression confirming he was deadly serious.
With coronavirus spreading and lockdown swiftly approaching, there was still time for one last Keane quip, with Adam Lallana on the receiving end as he praised Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour for his performance againsy Liverpool. ‘I think Everton in a strange way will be a tougher test than the Liverpool game,’ said Keane, ‘because Lallana was in midfield that night and I think my daughter’s probably stronger than him.’
Keane joked that he thought Arsenal were ’10 points clear’ after their jubilant celebrations
Keane, like most of us, was rarely seen during football’s three-month hiatus from March to June, though he did make a guest appearance on Sky’s Football Show, offering an insight into his final years at United. He admitted he ‘didn’t get’ team-mates Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand and would not go for a coffee with them.
‘I didn’t get Wayne or Rio, I didn’t get their banter or what they stood for sometimes. It was probably a personal thing,’ Keane admitted. ‘The game was changing and I had changed with it but towards the end at United with the players coming through I didn’t always get them. Personality-wise they were not for me. Obviously they were very good players and I was delighted to play with them but in terms of banter or having a cup of coffee with them? No, forget it.’
Keane admitted he never got on well with Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand at Man United
Keane came back raring to go when Premier League football returned in mid-June and by half-time of the first match of ‘Project Restart’ he had some shambolic United defending to tear into as they trailed Tottenham 1-0 after a Steven Bergwijn goal.
He didn’t disappoint, hammering De Gea, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire in a peak Keane rant: ‘I’m shocked at that goal, I’ve watched a lot of football over the years but I’m fuming there. I can’t believe Shaw heading the ball up in the air. I’m staggered at Maguire. I’m sick to death of this goalkeeper. I would be fighting him at half time, I would be swinging punches. This is an established international goalkeeper… Maguire and De Gea, I wouldn’t let them on the bus after the match. Shocking. I’m disgusted with it. Maguire, De Gea you should hang your heads in shame.’
With the games coming thick and fast in the summer so did Keane’s put-downs – Tottenham ‘constantly disappoint you’, Paul Pogba ‘wants to be the main guy on social media’ – and a consistent target were Aston Villa, where Keane was assistant in 2014, who ended up staying up after a strong finish to the season.
In their first match of the restart, he slammed captain Jack Grealish: ‘Every time I looked at Grealish he was laughing. Listen do you know what’s at stake here? Perhaps because the supporters weren’t there they felt the result didn’t matter. Of course it matters, your career is at stake here.’ Then, most memorably of all, he was less than impressed with their celebrations when they confirmed survival. ‘That’s why they never win anything,’ he deadpanned as the Sky cameras showed Villa’s celebrations, sending colleague Micah Richards into fits of laughter.
Aston Villa players were seen celebrating in their changing room after avoiding relegation
Keane’s blossoming bromance with Sportsmail columnist Richards has been one of the broadcasting highlights of the year, and gives an insight into a different side of the Irishman. His on-air barbs are legendary, though his sense of humour is evident too. Richards catching Keane out applying make-up before going on air in November – and posting it on social media – offered a rare example of the shoe being on the other foot for the former tough-tackling midfielder. He had Micah in stitches again after ribbing Gary Neville ahead of this month’s Manchester derby.
Keane’s bromance with Micah Richards has been a highlight of Sky’s Premier League coverage
As well as his work with Sky, Keane continues to appear for ITV on their international football coverage – so we saw plenty of him this autumn with England playing nine times.
He weighed in on the disciplinary problems facing England manager Gareth Southgate – a former colleague on ITV – after numerous Covid protocol breaches in his squad: ‘Obviously he’s built things up Gareth, he’s one of nicest guys you can be. But even now he’s gone enough is enough now. The stuff is ridiculous. How many warnings can you give these players? Enough is enough.’
When Southgate blanked Harry Maguire following his sending off against Denmark, in the wake of the Manchester United captain’s arrest in Mykonos, Keane was less sympathetic towards Southgate. ‘He knows Harry has had a tough time on and off the pitch, a pat on the back would have helped him. That would have settled him from Gareth.’
Harry Maguire trudged down the tunnel without a word from Gareth Southgate in October
Keane said Southgate should have consoled Maguire after his red card against Denmark
CLASHING WITH KLOPP
Unsurprisingly, Keane found himself involved in one of the most awkward exchanges on Sky Sports this year. What was surprising though, is that Keane was not the aggressor.
In his post-match interview after beating Arsenal in September, with Keane in the studio, Klopp went off script to ask. ‘Did I hear right that Mr Keane said we had a sloppy performance tonight? Did he say that?’
Keane reacted sharply, saying: ‘I thought they gave up one or two opportunities which they’ll be disappointed with.’
Klopp, feigning besument, then said: ‘I’m not sure if I heard it right, maybe he’s talking about another game. It cannot be this game, sorry. That’s an incredible description of this game. It was absolutely exceptional. Nothing was sloppy, absolutely nothing…’
Yet Keane did not back down and attempted to clarify his comments: ‘I think you might have misheard me, I’ve said there were sloppy moments but I think you’ve been outstanding. I’ve been giving the club nothing but praise. I’m not sure you heard me correctly there.’
After the interview was finished, Keane then quipped: ‘Very sensitive, isn’t he? Jesus – imagine if they’d lost!’
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left stunned at the beginning of his post-match interview
Klopp believed he heard Keane used the word ‘sloppy’ to describe his side’s performance
Just days after the Klopp exchange, United were thrashed 6-1 by Tottenham and Keane was back on the front foot. ‘A disgrace to the badge with that performance. Too many bluffers and ultimately, these players will cost Ole his job. They threw the previous manager under the bus. They will do the same to Ole.’
A United crisis seems to bring out the best in Keane, and the defeat at home to Arsenal brought another savaging, with Marcus Rashford a susprise target. ‘I looked at Rashford closely today, who has had a lot of plaudits over the past few months and he’s still a young man, but his body language was shocking, really shocking. He was shrugging his shoulders when things weren’t going his way. You roll your sleeves up at Manchester United.’
If United players and fans thought Keane was being harsh on them, then the 49-year-old showed that he’s not afraid to criticise players from other clubs just as harshly (as if we doubted it) when he laid into Manchester City defender Kyle Walker last month.
After Walker gave away a clumsy penalty against Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in a 1-1 draw, Keane’s assessment was extreme even by his standards. ‘Mane is up against an idiot. People think Kyle Walker is playing well. I don’t think so, he keeps making mistakes. He’s an international, 30 years old and he’s a car crash.’ As reveal by Sportsmail‘s Sports Agenda, Keane’s words brought a complaint to Sky by City.
Kyle Walker clumsily challenged Sadio Mane to earn Liverpool a penalty in November
Arsenal were next in the firing line following their drab defeat at home to Wolves. ‘I think their cheerleaders were out when they had a decent performance against United… I think they look soft. You can have an off night, but you still find a way to get that result, and at this moment in time, I don’t see it with this group of players. I think they look a bit soft.’
Then, it was back to what Keane does best, destroying United. With De Gea in sights for the umpteenth time this year after his mistake against Southampton. ‘I have to say I’m still not his biggest fan. He doesn’t do enough for me,’ Keane said. ‘He’s on a huge contract and he’s made big mistakes that have cost United a lot of points.’ Responding to De Gea’s complaining about the treatment he has received from pundits – with Keane surely being the main one he was talking about – the former United captain then added: ‘When he does make a mistake, he will get criticised. I just think some of the mistakes have been unacceptable. I don’t think I’m being too harsh. The games I’ve covered on the TV and I’ve been watching, he’s made too many mistakes.’
We don’t think you’re being too harsh, Roy. Keep up the good work.
David De Gea has found himself in Keane’s firing line on numerous occassions this year