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26th Jan 2023

Roy Keane on Man United’s two most improved players since Ronaldo left

Patrick McCarry

The pair have combined for 13 goals and five assists since the World Cup.

Manchester United are on course for their first cup final of the Erik ten Hag reign after beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 at the City Ground on Wednesday. Roy Keane was watching on from the Sky studio, at the ground, and three players caught his eye.

Keane was impressed with the Man of the Match display from Lisandro Martinez, but spent a lot of post-match time discussing the improving Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.

Having been critical of Rashford in past seasons, the former United captain believes the forward has come into himself over the past few months. “We were pitchside when the players came out and Rashford looked lean,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to be up against him… He looks like a lean, fighting machine.”

Keane added: “Sometimes it’s about confidence – there is where he’s peaking now. He’s played a lot of games for United and big games for England in the last few years.

“Sometimes the penny drops for a player in terms of decision-making and putting the ball in the back of the net. And they’ve needed him.

“The question mark I’ve had over Marcus in the last few years is, has he got that personality to step up to the plate?

“United have had some great strikers over the years, and I think they need someone like that. Marcus has to say he wants that responsibility to be the main man.

“The best players turn up week in and week out. It looks like he’s now enjoying that responsibility, which is great to see.”

Roy KeaneCristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes pictured at Old Trafford in October 2021. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Roy Keane on Bruno Fernandes

Roy Keane was asked, by Sky host Mark Chapman, if Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club has helped the confidence of Marcus Rashford. He replied, “When a player leaves the club the responsibility goes onto another player.

“He’s 25, not a child, sometimes when the timing is right you can be ready for that. He doesn’t get the niggly injuries anymore with his groin, he seems to have cleared it up. He looks in a great place mentally, too, which is huge. He said he reckons he took too much on away from football – and being a top footballer is hard enough.

“So putting the other stuff on the back burner and focusing on being a top player for Manchester United has seen him get his priorities right.”

Keane has been critical of Bruno Fernandes over the past 18 months – coincidentally, since Ronaldo arrived at United – but the Portugal star has shown a marked improvement since his compatriot headed off to Al-Nassr [three goals, three assists and two man-of-the-match performances in nine games].

Keane commented: “He has taken on that extra responsibility and has come through for the team with some big moments in attack.

“I still would call into question some of his leadership and the way he calls for would and takes his frustrations out on his teammates, but he has stepped up for them in attack.”

Keane also stated that United must target another winning streak over the coming set of fixtures. The club were on a good run before they lost five points in two games, after conceding late goals, against Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

Next up for United are Reading (FA Cup), Forest (League Cup semi-final second leg) before Brentford in the Premier League and back-to-back league encounters with Leeds United.

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