Manchester United’s painful exit from the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid has occupied many column inches of the national newspapers, and many minutes of TV and radio news broadcasts today.
Supporters of rival clubs will probably have lost little sleep over United’s controversial defeat, but many will identify with the angst the Reds' followers are experiencing.
However, for the United faithful, perhaps one of the more distressing aspects of United’s demise was the perceived scandalous performance of one of their own, the legendary Roy Keane, who was working as a pundit for ITV covering the match.
It is always refreshing to witness unbiased comments from former players when commenting on their previous employers matches.
Was Keane out of order?
Gary Neville is an excellent example of this when covering United’s matches. He is objective, astute in his analysis and appears totally impartial whilst inside we all know he is red through and through.
You also have the pundit who cannot hide his loyalty to his former clubs and tends to view all their games through rose-coloured glasses (or blue, white, green—whatever fits).
Roy Keane is the rare breed of former player pundits who sometimes seems set against his former employers and seeks the unpopular view on events.
He goes beyond impartiality into the previously uncharted territory of reverse punditry bias, never seeming to miss the opportunity to have a dig at former employers.
Last night, within minutes of the final whistle, he was pontificating that the referee was absolutely correct to send Nani off for what appeared to most people to be a totally accidental collision with Alvaro Arbeloa.
He then went on to suggest that being left on the bench would almost certainly signal the end of Wayne Rooney’s career at Old Trafford.
He also dismissed Jose Mourinho's comment that United were the better team and countered that Real deserved their victory.
The first comment in particular led to streams of furious emails to the MUFC phone-in show immediately after the match.
Keane’s comments seemed to follow a trend of bitterness and resentment that has regularly surfaced during an otherwise distinguished playing career and perhaps less-than-distinguished post-playing life.
Vast majority of Reds wearing thin on Roy Keane. Could walk the walk, but struggles to talk the talk.— Dale @Stretty News (@StrettyNews) March 6, 2013
His argument that the high foot into Arbeloa’s midriff didn’t have to be intentional for a sending-off to take place clearly is out of line with Law 12 of the “Laws of the Game,” which states that a player has to “intentionally” commit one of nine stated offenses for a free kick to be given.
It was fairly clear from the repeated slow motion and real-time replays of the incident that Nani was watching the ball and that Arbeloa ran into him.
When Gareth Southgate argued that he didn’t think Nani was aware Arbeloa was approaching, Keane completely missed the point when he responded that Nani must have known there were other players on the pitch.
During his playing years, of course, Keane was never far away from controversy.
In 2002 he received a five-match suspension for revelations in his autobiography, which involved admitting to deliberately attempting to exact revenge with an horrific challenge on Alf-Inge Haaland which nearly finished the Norwegian’s career.
He clashed on more than one occasion with Sir Alex Ferguson, including a heated argument about the quality of the facilities during a preseason tour in Portugal in 2005 (Guardian). This echoed his behaviour in 2002 when he stormed out of Ireland’s World Cup campaign.
On the latter occasion, his disaffection for the facilities was more than matched by his lack of respect for Irish manager Mick McCarthy.
The 10-minute rant at a team meeting shocked teammates and contained the type of personal abuse towards McCarthy that would undoubtedly offend Bleacher Report's more sensitive readers. The transcript, along with several other examples of Keane rants, can be found in this Guardian article.
Most famous of all, perhaps, was his reference to the prawn sandwiches brigade who only watch United’s home games and “can’t spell football let alone understand it,” after United’s defeat to Dynamo Kiev in 2000.
These are just a few of the less savoury examples of Keane’s behaviour.
On the flipside, we cannot forget that he was a wonderful player and captain who loyally served United for 12 years and 326 matches.
He will probably be remembered most for his unselfishness in the 1999 Champions League semifinal when from 0-2 down (and knowing the booking he received early in the game would rule him out of the final), Keane drove United on, scoring their first goal in an amazing comeback that saw them eventually triumph 3-2.
And therein lays the enigma that is Roy Keane.
His brilliance as a player soured by petty disputes and ill-advised comments.
Some people may say his plain speaking and forthright comments are virtues that should be encouraged.
Others would argue that part of the growing-up process should involve considering and respecting the feelings of others and tempering our comments accordingly.
That argument doesn’t appear to hold much sway with Roy Maurice Keane.