Roy Keane and the 5 Dirtiest Men to Play for Manchester United

Terry CarrollContributor IIIMarch 28, 2013

Roy Keane and the 5 Dirtiest Men to Play for Manchester United

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    While Roy Keane's name might quickly come to mind, not many people would think of Manchester United as a dirty team.

    And in recent years it seems likely that Sir Alex Ferguson has acted where necessary to nip any risks in the bud. 

    Take Wayne Rooney as an example. 

    Much of the talk before the England vs. Montenegro match this week was about the England striker having to remain calm.

    Wholly superfluous of course and much of it by the Montenegrins, because all you have to do is look at Rooney's recent disciplinary record to see he is a reformed character.

    Sir Alex surely had a hand in that change, as he did to stop players like Ashley Young from diving.

    Now that prompts a fundamental question: How do you define a dirty player?

    If you do it based on yellow and red cards, then you may pick up players like Luis Suarez who has been booked for diving.

    Basing it on who commits the dirtiest fouls is far more subjective, of course. Yes, you can see nasty tackles even though referees don't always spot them. If they result in a red card, then there is a record to refer to.

    Otherwise the best objective measures we have are those counting the number of fouls given and the number of cautions.

    So plenty of you will have an opinion on who the dirtiest players are because you can all recall one or more seriously bad or dangerous tackles. Like the one on Nani that Jamie Carragher got away with.

    In the slides that follow, we shall necessarily have to mix the subjective with statistics, because we don't have the figures to validate arguments about some of the more obvious players from the past.

    In any case, the question "who are Manchester United's dirtiest players of all time?" is ultimately a matter of opinion. See what you think.

Paul Scholes

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    It is interesting to consider this dichotomy:

    Paul Scholes is one of the finest midfielders in the history of the game, even in the minds of all-time greats like Zinedine Zidane and Iniesta

    And nobody at United would call him a dirty player. Nevertheless, especially these days, when he goes in to tackle 76,000 fans hold their breath.

    Does he get the "red mist" or is his timing badly off?

    Many opposition fans could be forgiven for thinking that Scholes has got away with murder on occasions in the past. We will probably never know whether Premier League referees just thought "oh it's only Paul...he's just not great at tackling..."

    And yet those supporters could equally be forgiven for feeling that Scholes has been more leniently treated than Patrick Vieira for example.

    Arsene Wenger was in no doubt in 2010, labelling him as a "dirty" player. But he was clearly confused because in the same interview he implied that he would welcome him in the Arsenal team.

    There is, however, little doubt that Scholes has at times been in-disciplined in his tackling, especially in recent years. And what cannot be overlooked is that a mistimed tackle can result in serious injury.

    He is included in this selection for two main reasons: the number of red cards he has had in his career; and his overall disciplinary record.

    No matter how much you like him, his record of red cards is unacceptable, with 11 in total and some atrocious tackles. But he has also incurred more than his fair share of fouls and yellow cards.

    When we think of dirty players in the modern era, names like Patrick Vieira and Jamie Carragher come to mind. But the former was meant to be a midfield destroyer and the latter an uncompromising defender.

    Scholes, for his entire career, has been a creative attacking or midfield player.

    There would be those who would place Rooney ahead of Scholes in a league of dirty players, but unlike Scholes, the ex-Evertonian has got his act together in recent years. Indeed he incurred only one yellow card in the whole of the 2011/12 Premier League season.

    Looking at the last five years and comparing Scholes with Rooney and Nemanja Vidic for numbers of fouls and yellow cards and numbers of matches played gives the following statistics:

    Scholes: 125 and 30 from 102 matches, giving averages of 1.23 and 0.29

    Rooney: 124, 25 and 145, giving 0.86 and 0.17

    Vidic: 127, 18 and 113, giving 1.12 and 0.16

    Given that Vidic's job is to tackle, Scholes figures suggest he is far "dirtier" than both.

    And his figures for the last 13 years aren't much better:

    414 fouls and 69 yellow cards from 337 matches, giving 1.23 and 0.20.

Johnny Giles

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    In a Leeds United team that included Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer, some think that Johnny Giles was the dirtiest of the lot. He himself admits they were "naughty."

    And yes, he could "play a bit" which is how he came to start his career at Manchester United, staying four seasons and starting 93 matches.

    How do you assess how dirty was a player who plied his trade in the days before red and yellow cards and substitutes?

    It is also questionable whether he was a dirty player during his time at Old Trafford, although he acknowledges that he was hard in a hard men's culture at Leeds.

    He got away with murder when he punched Kevin Keegan at Wembley (the third clip in this video).

    So let's be clear. We've included him here because he played for United, even though his on-pitch misdemeanours were mainly at Leeds.

Nobby Stiles

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    Nobby Stiles could also play a bit but he was every bit as hard as Giles, if not more so.

    He was not a pretty sight on a football pitch: short-sighted without his strong glasses; and missing his front teeth.

    However, you could hardly blame some of his tackles on an inability to see properly. In the video above, he acknowledges how bad one tackle was against France and he could use his fist as well as his boots.

    In all he played 395 games in 11 seasons for United, winning six trophies, including the European Cup. He also won 28 caps and a World Cup for England.

    In his time he was a likable hero, even though he could be dirty.

Joe Jordan

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    Joe Jordan was also revered at United. He was an "old-fashioned centre-forward" with a bit more skill; rather like a 1970s Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    He scored 37 goals in 109 matches, but as his later career showed he could also "mix it" a bit. After all, how did he lose his front teeth?

    You can get an insight into how hard he was in this video. Watch the end and his after-match confrontation with Gennaro Gattuso (no pussycat himself!)

    Jordan did, however, "play dirty" while he was at United. His most notable offence was when he "wiped out" Tottenham goalkeeper Milija Aleksic in an FA Cup replay. The Spurs man suffered a dislocated jaw.

    Talking of which, Jordan was nicknamed "Jaws" after losing his front teeth in a football match.

    In 2007 he was named in The Times as the 34th hardest man in the history of football.

    Mind you, Roy Keane made No.11.

Roy Keane

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    While Roy Keane was not as dirty as Julian Dicks, he could certainly be dirty, as the above video shows.

    At the same time he was a hugely talented, all-round player and an inspirational captain for Manchester United.

    It is a pity that he did what he did to Alf-Inge Haaland, because that appears to have been premeditated over a period of time.

    But he was a legend for United and nobody will ever forget his spectacular moments, achievements and the way he drove United to success. 

The "Near Misses"

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    It's interesting how many of the players who came into consideration were good footballers who didn't need to be dirty.

    Norman Whiteside came into that category, but like so many of the "near misses," they were playing at a time where you could get away with far more than nowadays and still stay on the pitch!

    Among the others who nearly made our top five were:

    Gabriel Heinze

    Jaap Stam

    Gary Neville

    Mark Hughes

    But Robbie Savage and Ryan Shawcross weren't considered because although they were on United's books, they never made it as a first-team player.