Before we get into things proper, I would like to point out that “Keane Sees Red” might refer to one of many incidents surrounding Manchester United’s treble-winning Captain. It might be the infamous MUTV rant, getting into a fight with Brian Clough, stamping on future England manager Gareth Southgate, criticizing his own fans in the media, or the many, many, many, altercations with Patrick Vieira during the legendary feud between Manchester United and Arsenal.
No, of course not.
Roy Keane vs Alf-Inge Haaland. pic.twitter.com/SX2pY9IhFU— 90s Football (@90sfootball) March 10, 2019
Like every great revenge story, the original sin would be set years before the final act; Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Håland (father of a certain Erling) of Leeds United going for the ball during a Premier League game at Elland Road.
United was flying high in the table and had won 5 and drawn 3 of their first 8 league games at the start of the 1997/98 season. Trailing 1-0 to Leeds, however, United would suffer their first game of the season, while Keane himself would suffer a serious injury five minutes before full time, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Literally adding insult to that injury, Håland would stand over a writhing Keane, accusing him of faking the injury to draw a foul. Scans would later reveal that Keane had damaged the cruciate ligament in his knee, and could only watch on as United threw away their lead at the top of the Premier League, allowing Arsenal to become champions in 1998.
The loss of their captain and talisman was a huge blow to United. Keane would return to the United midfield in 1998/99, however, and at times single-handedly drag United towards that historic treble, with heroic performance after heroic performance.
Fast forward to April 21 2001, and the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, and the revenge story whose seeds were sown in 1997, was building to a climax. Again it was five minutes before full time, and suddenly, Keane had his sights set on Håland, lunging at him, studs first, boot into knee.
The match-day referee David Elleray showed the Irishman a straight red, though Keane’s reaction to the dismissal was at best nonchalant, and before leaving the pitch he would, like what was done did to him, stand over his fallen nemesis, spewing vitriol and venom to a player that was lying agonized on the turf.
Few had made the connection at the time of the incident, the original clash having been four years previously and the two actually playing against each other several times in the years between. Most, had just assumed it was another flash of anger from the volatile Keane, who by now had collected a string of bookings and dismissals in a career that was punctuated as much by animosity as it was an achievement.
A minor fine and three-game suspension followed, and while Håland did not reveal what it was Keane had said to him, the mystery would be unravelled the following August, when Keane’s autobiography made it perfectly and pointedly clear that the act was planned, purposeful, and premeditated.
The FA suspended Keane for another 5 games and slapped him with another fine, this one thirty times the amount of the original.
Roy Keane has not once shown remorse for what he did, though the myth that he ended Håland’s career is simply that, a myth. Håland would actually finish that game and play other games that season, eventually retiring after persistent problems in his left knee (Keane had kicked his right).
“Horror challenge” is one of the most common phrases used to describe Roy Keane’s clash with Alf-Inge Håland, though the word “assault” has also been brandished.
Looking back now, it is difficult to condone this calculated act that borders on the Machiavellian. Some may say it has tainted Keane’s legacy, while others point at other great players with a dark side (Eric Cantona, the previous Manchester United captain, being the prime example). In truth, it is difficult to gauge how this single act has coloured the way we look back at Keane’s career, though you then have to remember that it was not a single act at all, as said, a great revenge story.
The only question you have to ask yourself is who the bad guy is in this one.