Does Roy Keane owe Manchester United anything?

As Manchester United exited the Champions League on Tuesday evening to Real Madrid, former United legend Roy Keane had a word or two in defence of the referee.

Cuneyt Cakir’s decision to show Nani a red card in the 56th minute of the game in which United had lead 1-0 thanks to a Sergio Ramos own goal, left United manager Sir Alex Ferguson literally speechless.

The incensed United boss left the Old Trafford pitch-side visibly outraged at the referees controversial decision, which undoubtedly changed the face of the game considerably.

Ferguson then refused to appear in front of the press for United’s post-match press obligations, instead sending his assistant Mike Phelan out, who told reporters Ferguson was too ‘distraught’ to participate.

One man who was more than happy to give his thoughts on the game and the contentious decision was former United captain Roy Keane who joined the punditry panel live on ITV.

Keane argued adamantly with Gareth Southgate over Nani’s dismissal, asserting his belief that the Turkish referee made ‘the right call’ for what he believed to be ‘dangerous play’ on Nani’s part.

I must admit, having never considered myself a Manchester United supporter, I happen to agree in this instance with the majority view that Nani was not aware of Alvaro Arbeloa’s incoming challenge and was indeed misfortunate to have been sent off in what has to be considered a harsh decision.

However, my disagreement with Keane’s comments are not abject and the criticism of him from United fans and former United player Paddy Crerand makes me wonder what they believe he owes them?

His 13 years service, 480 appearances and 51 goals are surely enough to warrant the right to speak his mind – I understand that his mind is sometimes called in question when he opens his mouth but, nonetheless, he has a right to his opinion and should by no means be labelled a ‘traitor’ by fans of a club he gave so much to.

Gary Neville has been something of a revelation this season on Sky Sports – he is insightful, intelligent and persuasive and I rarely get the feeling he has a bias towards United.

The problem with Keane is that he has built a reputation on disregard and disenchantment – as a player, manager and pundit he has never shown any diplomacy, decorum or tact. It’s not just the things he says, it’s the way he says them.

In hindsight Keane might reflect that ‘going to town’ on Nani, regardless of whether the referee’s decision was harsh, in the immediate aftermath of a shock Champions League exit at Old Trafford would likely not make him any new friends and would more likely lose him a few old ones.

A more gentle approach to the debate may have been advisable considering the disillusioned and disappointed people watching at home probably didn’t want or need to hear that. However, I would tell them, with all due respect, to take Roy Keane as he is – he has never been gentle and you used to love him for it.

You can’t claim Roy Keane has betrayed Manchester United for behaving as Roy Keane always did for Manchester United – like a bull in a china shop. In fact, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

image: © joncandy

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