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20th Jan 2020

Roy Keane is angry at everything bar his own tedious punditry

Kyle Picknell

“How long has Ole been in the job? 18 months!? Is it that long? I don’t think it’s 18 months! Can we find out… find out how long Ole’s been in the job. It’s not 18 months. 16 months… give the man a chance.”

At points, it’s hard to tell what Roy Keane actually enjoys about football, the single thing he has devoted his entire life to. First as a player, then as a manager and coach, and now, finally, as a pundit – in the very loosest sense of the word.

Roy Keane is a football pundit only in the same way a ravenous grizzly bear is a fishing pundit, or Chewbacca is a panel expert on galactic politics. It’s not that they don’t know their subject. They do, they’ve lived it. Nobody is better at catching and devouring freshwater salmon than a grizzly bear and nobody is better at shaking their head and tutting about the attitude of modern – and therefore vastly inferior – footballers than Roy Keane. It’s more the lack of nuance on offer. For two of them, communication only comes in a series of growls and barks. That’s Keane and the bear. At least with Chewbacca you get the occasional anguished howl thrown in whilst he whinge-talks you through the intricacies of the Republic.

Before, during and after Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United, Roy Keane pundit-ed like a man possessed whilst Jamie Carragher, Souness, David Jones and Patrice Evra could do nothing other than sit and stare and occasionally try and get a word in edgeways as this haunted wardrobe bursting with snakes started offering its opinion on Anthony Martial’s deep failings as a top-class striker.

When Roy Keane talks, the best thing to do is pretend you’re not there. Go to your happy place instead. Imagine you’re on a beach in Thailand sipping a strawberry daiquiri, not where you actually are, which is a foot away from Roy Keane, experiencing something similar to journeying through the world’s most vigorous carwash without a car. The second best thing to do is lean slightly away from him, avoid eye contact and nod your head every so often until it is over. The third best and, therefore, worst thing you can do is speak. As in say anything, anything at all. Agree with his point or disagree, it doesn’t matter, it’s all the same to Roy Keane, a man who only opens his mouth to let all the disdain out because if he didn’t he would slowly turn purple and inflate into a balloon like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

In the clip above, Jamie Carragher makes that exact mistake. You know the saying to ‘open a can of worms’? That’s pretty much it, except instead of worms it’s flesh-eating ants. And instead of a can, it’s a shipping container. In fact, comparing engaging Roy Keane in conversation to stepping inside a shipping container full of flesh-eating ants is probably doing him a disservice. In the shipping container full of flesh-eating ants you won’t get interrupted nearly as much. You’ll be able to scream for help in relative peace, all without getting that ‘not now, I’m speaking’ hand signal and a look of disgust so intense it makes your organs tremble. At least in the shipping-container full of ants you’ll be spared the indignity of getting told off on live television, having your flesh ripped off your bones by ants a far more appealing fate than having to experience Roy Keane tremble with fury and reiterate, for the 86th time in a minute, that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs. more. time.

Which brings me neatly to the point: what does Roy Keane like about football? Other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, seemingly the only individual out of the 7.5 billion inhabiting this planet to have earned even a modicum of respect from the Irishman, who and or what does he care for? Does he… care for Manchester United Football Club? Nope. In fact, on balance, he seems to hate them more than any other team.

They appear to be nothing other than a source of perpetual embarrassment for him, a younger sibling stuffed in a bin he has to pretend he doesn’t know when he arrives at school. He wants them to do better, of course, but not because it would make him happy, or make the fans happy. He wants Manchester United to do better so he doesn’t have to go on the TV every fortnight and question the desire of Nemanja Matic. He wants Manchester United to do well only so he can stay at home with his wife and his kids and his dogs and never hear from anyone again.

Does he enjoy the game of football, in and of itself? He does not. It’s clear Roy Keane detests football. Which you know because he talks about it as though he genuinely believes its best and most important aspects are things like ‘running hard’ and ‘concentrating for long periods’ and ‘winning the mental battle’. Imagine a butcher who garnered no sense of satisfaction from selling a quality steak to a hungry family and instead was just happy he got to use the big knives every day. That’s Keane.

Will he ever find peace? Given that he reacted to the sight of Luke Shaw warming up in a beanie as though it was live footage of someone kidnapping his dog, it doesn’t seem likely. But, and let me shock you here, maybe that is the point for Keane, that something profoundly satisfying lies deep within all this dissatisfaction.

If he truly is a football sadist, delighted by shoves in the back and elbows to faces and 50/50 challenges where both players somehow come off worse, then that’s fine. Some people are like that. We don’t kink shame here. It’d just be refreshing if he had a point to make beyond “I’m Roy Keane, I’m a winner, nothing is up to my standards, everything disgusts me” expressed entirely through a succession of grumbles and scoffs and sighs and growls, with nothing in view anywhere near as worthy of his scorn as his own desultory analysis.

The grizzly bear got the fish because it wanted it more. It’s as simple as that, Jamie.