Sunday 19 November 2017

'I wouldn't have sympathy for Van Gaal' - Roy Keane believes current Man Utd crop lack character

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane (SPORTSFILE)
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane (SPORTSFILE)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

In the prime of his playing career, winning an FA Cup would not have saved a Manchester United season for Roy Keane.

But he believes that Louis van Gaal deserves to see out the remainder of his contract at Old Trafford if his team succeeds against Crystal Palace on May 21.

Looking beyond that, however, Keane feels that it's an absence of strong characters on the pitch and in the dressing-room that is an obstacle to his old club competing for league honours again.

"I wouldn't say I have sympathy for Van Gaal, but then again I don't like to see managers heavily criticised because it's a difficult job," says Keane, "It was always going to be difficult, even for David Moyes, after Alex Ferguson. There's been some good signs over the last few months with some of the younger players. With lots of changes over the last two or three years, it was always natural there was going to be a dip.

"I think if United can win the cup - and they're making it difficult to finish fourth - he's got a year left and I don't see why United wouldn't let him finish out the last year of his contract.

"If they can win the FA Cup, it might give him that bit of breathing space to finish the job off next year and when we're talking about Manchester United, to me, I'm always talking about winning titles etc.

"But if they are going to recruit again then whatever about good players, what United need is two or three characters so on their bad days they're able to grind out results. Chelsea will be stronger next year, Arsenal, and Man City too with their new manager. It's not going to get any easier. I don't think they have enough characters in that team to get them back into winning league titles."

Keane veered into discussion on the state of modern football generally in a lengthy chat with his American-based hosts of ESPN's 'Beyond the Pitch' podcast.

He praised the character and work ethic of the current Irish squad and reflected on some of the big personalities that he soldiered alongside as a player.

The 44-year-old lauded the likes of Stuart Pearce and Bryan Robson as he bemoaned what he deems to be the modern definition of 'cool' in terms of approach to the job, with an indirect reference to some of the players that might have annoyed him during his managerial stints with Sunderland and Ipswich.

"We do look at wages now and think now is the perfect time to be coming into the game - the wages are fantastic and I wouldn't begrudge them," he said, "But I look back now to when I played and there seemed to be a few more characters around - the game meant a bit more to them.

"With all the top players I worked with, the very top players, trust me - money never came into it. What I found in my career is that the cool players were the lads who came in trained properly, won medals, played games, and didn't sit on the treatment table all year.

"To be cool now is to be late for training (and) 'How many tattoos do you have?' 'What girl are you seeing?' 'What are you driving?' We all liked to be rewarded and you'd fight your corner on contracts. But all the top lads I worked with had nothing to do with any of that nonsense."

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