Ander Herrera taking the ball off Phil Jones and telling him to piss off is his defining Keane moment
There's a time and a place for Phil Jones and it is not in the opposition half.
It is not on the ball.
It is not even thinking about picking a pass.
There's a time and a place for Ander Herrera too. It just so happens to be anytime. Anywhere.
The real hero of #MUFC https://t.co/zXEQiohbAc
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 16, 2017
He was in and out at the start of the season under Jose Mourinho as the new manager tried and tried to shoehorn Wayne Rooney into the side for no good reason.
It was a stop-start August for the Spaniard but, come September, he grabbed a starting jersey with both hands like it was Roberto Firmino threatening to break away and he refused to let go. Since then, the thought of United operating without Herrera isn't an option. It's just that, it's unthinkable.
He's not just a technically glorious footballer, he's a leader of men and that was never better demonstrated than it was against Liverpool when he practically - literally - took the ball off Phil Jones, told him to get out of the way and picked a delicious through ball for Valencia to set up another chance for United.
In the space of a few seconds, he called rank, he took control, he made things happen.
1. Herrera's surrounded and he plays the ball to Phil Jones... he immediately regrets it.
2. Jones is wondering if, from this position, he has enough space to lump it.
3. With hoofing out the window, Phil Jones shits himself after one second with the ball - genuinely one second. Herrera sprints over as fast as he can to rescue the defender.
4. He orders Jones to immediately cease and desist and to get the hell away.
5. Jones listens.
6. Step away from the football.
7. Without even taking a touch, without even seemingly looking, Herrera already knows what he's doing. Jones is relieved.
8. One perfectly-weighted sweep of a football and three men are taken out of it.
9. Antonio Valencia is away.
10. United are in again.
11. Jones is in awe.
There are moments like this that help define a player's place in the team. They can even help define a career.
You go through the old Roy Keane clips and everything about them spells leader and they spell a man who is comfortable in any area of the pitch. He took the ball off his defenders when he wanted to. He forced guys into positions they weren't even thinking of and he told everyone in no uncertain terms where to be.
The United of the last few years would've let Phil Jones keep possession there. They would've let him lump one in high or play it sideways again or back to the 'keeper. Not this United. This United, under Herrera - the new United - are like the old United.
One of the things that best summed up Keane's influence at Old Trafford were moments like that. Once, against Southampton, Phil Neville was shadowing a winger in the left corner. Polite as always. Keane comes in and he cleans the opposition, man and ball. He bounces up and lets and almighty roar out of him into the face of Neville for standing off.
Rio Ferdinand, too, tells a horrifying story of his first day at Manchester United training.
"One of my first training sessions I got the ball, passed it to Gary Neville who was on my team," Ferdinand recalled.
"I hit a normal ball and then Keane just turned around and said ‘pass it forward, take risks. You’re not at Leeds or West Ham now you are at Man Utd.'
"I saw that day why United were winners and why Roy was at the heart of it."
That marked the Cork man's presence. He set standards and made damned sure everyone met them. He made damned sure United were winners.
Ander Herrera is in the middle of doing that himself. He'll just need to drag a few along with him.