Did Roy Keane's infamous challenge end Alf-Inge Haaland's career?
"I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think)...'
In April 2001, Manchester United captain Roy Keane was sent off after committing one of the most infamous fouls in Premier League history on Manchester City midfielder, Alf Inge Haaland.
Keane, attempting to drive United forward having just conceded an equaliser with five minutes of time remaining at Old Trafford, had overrun the ball, allowing Haaland to intercept. As the Norwegian prodded the ball forward for City, Keane thundered into him, the studs of his right boot making contact with Haaland's knee.
The decision was easy for David Ellery, who instantly flashed a red card. Keane returned to the dressing room for the final minutes of the game, shouting something at Haaland as he received treatment on the turf.
Initially, the Irishman received a three-game suspension and a £5,000-fine for the incident. This, however, was significantly increased after the release of his autobiography the following year, in which he explained how his actions were about settling an old score.
Keane autobiography controversy
Keane's autobiography was released in 2002, in the wake of his abrupt departure from the Irish World Cup squad in Saipan earlier that year. His account of what happened with Haaland swiftly became the main talking point.
According to Keane, it began when he faced the Haaland - then a Leeds United player - in a league game at Elland Road in September 1997.
Leeds won the game through a single goal from David Wetherall and Keane had become increasingly annoyed by Haaland as the game progressed. With five minutes remaining, he attempted to trip him just inside the Leeds penalty.
"He was winding me up from the beginning of the game," Keane wrote in his book.
"Five minutes from time... I lunged forward at Haaland. I was trying to trip him rather than kick him. I knew it would probably mean a booking but, f*ck it, he'd done my head in."
Keane did trip Haaland, but the incident also saw him snap his cruciate ligament in his left knee, leaving him out of action for months.
As Keane lay on the ground, Haaland - and Wetherall - came over to him, accusing him of faking an injury.
Though the pair faced each other multiple times in the years that followed, it was only in the Manchester derby of April 2001 that things erupted.
"I'd waited long enough," Keane wrote. "I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***."
Keane hit with fine and ban
Having served his earlier three-game suspension for the incident, Keane was suspended for a further five games in October 2002. On top of that, the FA fined him £150,000.
He was found guilty of two counts of bringing the game into disrepute: the first relating to the foul, which was deemed to have been "improperly motivated, with an apparent element of revenge".
The other charge was related to Keane allegedly publishing his account of the incident in his autobiography "for financial profit or reward".
Did Keane's challenge end Haaland's career?
In the years that have passed, it's often been said that Keane's revenge mission cost Haaland his career. However, strictly speaking, that's not quite true.
Haaland, despite the clattering, was able to get back to his feet and finish the game. Four days later, he even turned out for his national side for half of a friendly against Bulgaria in Oslo. The following weekend, he lasted nearly 70 minutes in City's league win over West Ham.
He did undergo knee surgery weeks later but on his left knee - not the one which felt the force of Keane's studs.
After surgery failed to fully rectify the problem, Haaland played his final competitive game of football in January 2002. His troublesome left knee ultimately caused him to retire in 2003 at the age of just 30.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2008, Haaland suggested Keane's tackle did contribute to the premature end of his playing career.
"It is still there, every day," he said. "The knee still hurts, that isn't going to go away. I have to accept that.
"Did that tackle end my career? Well, I never played a full game again, did I? It seems like a great coincidence, don't you think?"
Manchester City had vowed to pursue legal action against Keane but announced in February 2003 that they had decided not to do so having carefully reviewed medical and consequential legal advice.
Originally published April 14, 2022.