IT is time for Manchester United fans to lighten up and acknowledge Roy Keane for what he is – one of our great entertainers.
He is well on the way to becoming the Bono of football pundits.
Roy may not have picked up anything from his biographer Eamon Dunphy as a footballer, but as a TV panellist he has learned all the rules from the Dunphy playbook.
The first rule is: if you can annoy as many people as possible, preferably Manchester United fans, at any one time, you will go a long way.
Last night, while United fans and his co-panellists on ITV whinged about the player Nani being sent off for kicking a Real Madrid opponent, Keano saw his opportunity, pounced and scored.
He took the contrarian view, and as a result, upstaged Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldo and even the stage master of histrionics, Jose “The best team lost” Mourinho himself.
That was some achievement.
To the delight of supporters of that troubled but widely-supported team, Anyone But United (ABU), our Roy piped up: “I think the referee has actually made the right call.”
And then he suggested that when he himself had received a red card for what he knew to be a bad foul, he retreated from the field of play like a little lamb.
Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth on these occasions, or so we were led to believe.
One Twitter commentator noted that Keane had called it a red card, and he “knew dangerous play like a shed full of Peroni knows a hangover”.
Mind you, Roy did not have much competition from his fellow ITV pundits, Gareth Southgate and Lee Dixon. Their interventions were about as incisive as a tepid face flannel.
We knew that Roy had it in him as a future pundit years ago when he talked of Manchester United’s home fans munching “prawn sandwiches”. The phrase has become synonymous with the premium level free-loading fair-weather fan from Old Trafford to the Aviva.
Roy not only lashed the corporate schmoozing, but also the maudlin “sing while you’re losing and boozing” mentality of Irish fans at the Euro Championships in Poland.
In that case, you could not blame our fans for having a good time, but Keane’s remarks still had a ring of truth to them.
As the man has said himself, “Aggression is what I do. I go to war. You don’t contest football matches in a reasonable state of mind.”
The same rules apply to sports punditry at the top level, and long may it continue.