Uncomfortable truth about Roy Keane swipes at De Gea and Maguire
"I would be swinging punches at that guy."
We thought the Premier League was officially back when David Luiz wrapped up two Manchester City goals in a bow, on Wednesday evening, but the rubber stamp was cast by Roy Keane some 48 hours later.
Showing signs that he may have foregone a D.I.Y haircut during the lockdown period, Keane was in playful mood, in the Sky Sports studio, before a ball was kicked between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. After 45 minutes (and one water break) though, the former United captain gloved up and started swinging.
United had looked decent in the first half of their first game back - following the Covid-19 pandemic - but some calamitous defending and goalkeeping combined to allow Steven Bergwijn to put Spurs in front. With the likes of Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Odion Ighalo on the United bench, Patrice Evra - on punditry duty with Keane - was not giving up hope.
Evra, like some of the United and Spurs players, was easing himself back into it. He was a solid 7/10 with the potential to lift his game. Keane came steaming in at 11 and somehow cranked the dial to 12 with insights into how he, as a player, would have dealt with such fallibility.
"I am flabbergasted," Keane began [Note: pauses such as these '...' in the following lines denote withering stares and head-shakes].
"Maguire... and De Gea... I wouldn't even let them on the bus after the match. Get a taxi back to Manchester!
"These are established international players we're talking about. We're all siting here and I know we have to analyse the game. Analyse it until the cows come home... You do your job. We're trying to get into the top four - never mind win trophies, by the way - we're talking about the TOP FOUR! God forbid about winning trophies... shocking. I am disgusted with it.
"Maguire... De Gea... you should hang their heads in shame. Representing Man United and letting people run past you... get close to people; move your feet!"
There was a dismissal, from Keane, for in-depth analysis of the goal United conceded but, with the Bergwijn effort being replayed in studio and on our screens at home, he gave it a good dart.
"I've watched a lot of football over the years and to give away that goal... I'm fuming.
"I can't believe that's Manchester United. Luke Shaw, heading the ball up in the air and then running forward... I am staggered at Maguire... staggered at how an international player can just get done like this, and I am sick to death of this goalkeeper.
"I would be finding him [De Gea] at half-time, there is no getting away from that. I would be swinging punches at that guy. That is a standard save for an established international goalkeeper."
On The Football Spin, Nooruddean Choudry described the Keane outburst as "glorious" but noted that Keane has lapsed from the Robert De Niro of Deerhunter and Raging Bull to the Robert De Niro of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Meet The Fockers.
"You could tell he was frazzled before he opened his mouth. Like, his hair was a mess... he was ready for a fight.
"The thing I love about that rant is that it's almost like three blokes in a pub that are rowing. He starts off calm, then says it was awful and then says 'I'd be swinging punches', and then - the thing that made me laugh - he slips in, 'United didn't actually play that badly... BUT... ' and then he goes off on another one.
"There's a lot to unpack, but if you just consider that one line, 'I'd be swinging punches at that guy'. Like, we're in the middle of a pandemic, the NHS is stretched and he would be swinging punches at the goalkeeper. That's what he'd be doing!"
Following the game, BBC reporter Simon Stone put the Keane comments to United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian, in his reply, said two very interesting things.
"Roy was a fantastic midfielder, a good friend of mine," Solksjaer began. "I am not sure he would have stopped [Bergwijn's shot]."
"David was disappointed, obviously, with it. But if you see the ball, the ball was moving... through the air."
You don't have to imagine what Keane's reaction would be to someone defending a goalkeeper from conceding a goal by saying 'the ball was moving'. When that line was put to the Cork native about a goal Jordan Pickford let in against United, earlier in the season, he responded:
"The ball is moving. Of course it's moving... someone has kicked it!"
Roy Keane was spot on, then, and he is spot on now. Pickford and De Gea would both be fuming with themselves for the goals they conceded, so why not call it out?
They are uncomfortable truths for Solksjaer and for United fans but Keane was right to highlight the failures of Shaw, Maguire and De Gea for the goal. If it was a one-off, you could call such analysis harsh but this is a constant with the United rear-guard.
Spurs boss José Mourinho is keenly aware of the limitations of the United backline and he sent out a team with four attacking players to threaten them with pace, through balls and balls over the top [even from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris]. Catch United out of shape and defending with a high line and see how they struggle to snuff out goal-scoring chances.
As for De Gea, he inked a new contract with the club last year and is unlikely to be moving any time soon. United are set to allow Dean Henderson stay on loan at Sheffield United for the rest of this disrupted season but Solskjaer must be seriously pondering him as a starting option for next season. For now, though, there is Argentinean international Sergio Romero in reserve.