This calendar year has been tough for Manchester United at times, culminating in the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and appointment of Ralf Rangnick.
A number of demoralising, embarrassing and uninspiring performances left the Reds, the manager and the players in the firing line.
One man who didn’t pull back on any punches was Premier League-winning midfielder, Roy Keane. The Irishman wore the armband on one sleeve and his heart on the other during his playing days, carrying that mantra into his punditry career.
Fernandes’ comparison to Eric Cantona (January 2021)
Keane said: “It’s not easy. Not easy winning football trophies.
“You know Fernandes has had great praise and over the past few months, people have been comparing him to Eric Cantona etc. but Fernandes didn’t really do much tonight.
“The top players turn up on the big occasions. That’s what Cantona used to do, [they] get their hands-on trophies. And that’s where this team is a little bit short.
“They probably need to have one or two more players come into the squad no doubt and the mentality, maybe they need the confidence of winning a semi-final to get them over the line. Then you get momentum.”
Paul Pogba’s leadership credentials (May 2021)
“Again, I look back and think Man United should be competing in the Champions League, but I still don’t think Pogba will drive Man United back to winning championships,” he commented.
“I don’t think he’s a big leader, I don’t think he’s that type of character.
“He’s done better the last few games and obviously he did well during the week against Roma – although I thought the standard of that game was really poor.
“I still think Man United need to go out and get two world-class players and of course it’s easier said than done.”
Fred, McTominay and Matic as midfield options (August 2021)
“I don’t want to mention Fred again because I seem to be on his case all the time,” Keane said after the win over Wolves.
“I think if you want to play for a big team in midfield you’ve got to hang your hat on something to say well, ‘you’re brilliant at going forward, or brilliant defensively or he’s got a goal in him’ – I don’t see any of them in Fred.
Lingard staying at Old Trafford (September 2021)
“I don’t think Lingard is going to get Man Utd challenging for titles,” he explained.
“Jesse has done well at West Ham and maybe they’re a good fit for him. But if you’re asking me do I think Lingard will get Man Utd winning titles, the answer is no.
“That’s the exact words I would use – no man’s land.
“It’s been difficult, you thought he’d get a move. But he’s got to get his head down at Man United.”
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s performance vs Liverpool (October 2021)
“Wan-Bissaka – I don’t even think Palace would take him back now. He’s not good enough for Manchester United.
He added: “No feel for the ball. No decision making.
“What Manchester United have always had over the years, no matter talented players, is players with character and personalities. I don’t see it with this group.”
Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire during Liverpool collapse (October 2021)
“But individual performances… Maguire and Shaw last week, they were a disgrace. An absolute disgrace to the club. And these are established international footballers,” Keane slammed.
“I heard Maguire talking during the week. He was like a robot. He was like, ‘Apologies to the fans…’ There was no emotion behind it.
“And these guys are on the back of good European Championships for England. They have turned up before for big matches. But recently… and Shaw has fallen back into his old habits a few years ago.
“I’m fed up with his chat after games with people apologising. Harry Maguire talking about ‘we need to come together as a group’. No, you need to sort your game out.
“If you’re going to be the leader of that group then you need to get the basics right. You need to do your own job.”
Jadon Sancho’s start to life at United (October 2021)
He said: “It’s certainly been a slow start for him, it’s well and good doing well at Dortmund but it’s a different animal going to Man United, big expectations.
“He’s maybe been overshadowed slightly with Ronaldo coming in but I’d always give the kid a chance, he’s been there a few months, nice opportunity for him tonight but give him a chance.”
David de Gea error vs Manchester City (November 2021)
“Just on half time, a huge goal against City dominating possession but this defending from Shaw and De Gea, there’s not enough pressure.
“You have to show intensity and put pressure on. You’re on the ropes to stay in the game. You’re like a boxer – stay in the game!
“I’ve been crossing these fellas for years – I give up. I give up on these players. These are international players, I give up. I can’t understand the defending. I give up.
“I drove up thinking United have a chance, but unless they do something drastic it will be another four or five.”
Harry Maguire’s England celebration (November 2021)
“Maguire puts his hands to his ears like he’s shutting his critics up… it’s embarrassing,” he remarked after the United captain scored against Albania.
“He’s been a disgrace last few months for Manchester United, he scores and he thinks he’s going to shut his critics up, it’s embarrassing.”
Rashford and Greenwood’s England omissions (November 2021)
“I know they’ve had injuries, I understand that, but we know their quality and when Gareth is asked about them he says ‘yeah I spoke to Marcus…’ It seems like a big conversation.
“It’s as if there’s something going wrong, there’s something amiss with some of these United lads.
“They’re young and hungry but a change of scenery will probably do them the world of good, there’s negativity around United at the moment with the bad results.
“There’s this idea that they need to save their club and do something about it on the training pitch there.”
Ronaldo’s Chelsea starting snub (November 2021)
“Ronaldo has not come back to Manchester United to sit on the bench,” he said.
“His stats since he came back to the club are ok – he has got some goals and some assists.
“This idea that he is going to start closing people down? He’s not.
“He’s a world-class player, the idea Ronaldo will close people down he’s not. But sometimes you have to work around the superstar.
“I’ve played with players who don’t do the bit you hope – the Cantonas of this world – but you forgive them because they score the winning goals in tight matches.”
Ralf Rangnick’s appointment (November 2021)
Keane said: “I have no real problem with it [Rangnick’s appointment], I think it’s just the situation it is.
“I think the main issue is about picking the next manager, what he said there in the interview [his philosophy] that’s the game for the last and it’ll be the same as the next 100 years, if it was about just being in possession, I’d still be playing.
“But a lot of the time you’re not in possession and we’ve seen with the United lads. There’s nothing new there but again the decision over the next couple of months is getting the right manager in and getting players to run, like Ronaldo, Fernandes, Pogba, even Rashford they’ve stopped running out of possession.
“So that’s the biggest challenge, getting these lads on side to start closing down because United do have talent and it does need coaching, you have to improve on set-pieces of course.”
Players throwing Solskjaer under the bus (November 2021)
The 50-year-old fired: “They are not working as hard as the three teams at the top who are brilliant, have a lot of talent, well-coached and they run; United’s players have stopped running in the last couple of months.
“Marcus Rashford has said that the players have to take responsibility – but these players don’t. We saw a great example after the Watford game, where the players have gone over and tried to defend their manager.
“It was too late; the damage was done.
“I said over the last year or two that leopards don’t change their spots. Man United have talented players, particularly in possession. But, unfortunately, the game is also about when you’re out of possession.
“If you want to compare them to Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, it is chalk and cheese. These players don’t run, they don’t sprint, they don’t close down, they don’t work as a team and they work as individuals. They’re almost just depending on their talent, which is coming up short as well.
“That is not enough to win the big prizes and it is not good enough. We talk about culture, and I don’t know what’s gone on in terms of on the training pitch every single day, but the signs are, again, that this United group does not work hard enough.
“They don’t seem like good enough lads to me, in terms of that leadership and that personality (being missing). But that is what you need.
“I think sometimes now when the players get interviewed, they are like robots. Over the last week when a lot of the players have been talking about the manager leaving, they keep saying Ole. Ole was their gaffer. Maybe Ole was too friendly with them.
“Maybe that was a problem. Maybe he was too nice to these lads, because these lads have done what I predicted and thrown him under a bus.”
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