Will Keane's long-awaited return saw a goal that could be vital for both his and United's long-term success.
Three goals from Robin van Persie, a brace from Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney’s sweetly-struck free-kick against Crystal Palace are Manchester United’s only senior goals to date this season.
In their own way, all have been vital. And yet on Monday evening, a goal was scored by another United striker that is arguably more important than any netted by his more illustrious teammates.
The goal was United’s first in their 4-1 win against Bolton in the Barclays under-21 Premier League. And the player was Will Keane.
And while some may raise their eyebrows at my claim that the 20-year-old’s equaliser is more significant than those scored thus far in the first-team, in truth it is so much more than just a goal.
If Sir Alex Ferguson had his way – and had he side-stepped a cruel twist of fate – Keane would be a first-team regular by now. That was the intention of the former manager in the summer of 2012, before the striker suffered a cruciate ligament injury while playing for England under-19s.
From then until now, little has been seen of the player tipped for greatness by those in the know at Old Trafford.
And while Monday’s match was just the beginning of a long road to what he hopes will be the top, United fans should take great pleasure in the fact that a naturally-gifted goal-scorer has overcome so much to return as if he had never been away.
Although Jesse Lingard’s brace will take the headlines, Keane’s emphatic finish was both a reminder of what once was and a sign of what is to come. And just past the hour-mark, he took his place on the bench, his work done and a huge step taken.
For too long the young man has been a question without an answer.
When will he return? Will he be the player he was before? Will he overcome his injury problems to ultimately take the first-team place David Moyes’ predecessor had ready for him?
On Monday evening those questions began to be answered. And in years to come, should Keane live up to his potential, the goal he scored on his return could prove to be the catalyst for all that followed.
How pleased are you to see Keane back? And how good can he ultimately become for United?
image: © Paolo Camera