For what feels like an eternity, Manchester United have been on the hunt for a new central midfielder – or, more specifically, the new Roy Keane.

It’s a formula that hasn’t boded well for United in in the past but supporters crave for the combative engine the Irishman brought.

We take a look at the unlucky and ultimately unsuccessful few tasked with replacing Keano:

Liam Miller

A fellow Irishman and Cork kid, Miller arrived at Old Trafford with big hopes of making the grade and filling his idol's boots. Having joined from Celtic he never made a significant impression on the United faithful - at least not a positive one - making just 28 appearances before joining Keane at Sunderland.

Eric Djemba-Djemba

The man so good they named him twice, Cameroonian Djemba-Djemba was touted as an all-action hustle and bustle central midfielder with qualities on the ball to match. In the end it turns out you really do get what you pay for and the £3.5m fee United paid Nantes was money not so well spent. Djemba-Djemba played for United 29 times in all before joining Aston Villa.

Alan Smith

Alan Smith was always up against it. Moving across the Pennines from Leeds United to Manchester United was never going to be easy but Smith made a bright start scoring some crucial goals before a horrific leg break at Liverpool halted his progress.

On his return he was re-invented as a combative midfielder to add steel to the United core but never really looked at home in the role at Old Trafford and eventually left the club to join Newcastle.

Owen Hargreaves

Owen Hargreaves arrived at Old Trafford having turned himself from England’s laughing stock to their most essential player inside 12 months. The then-Bayern Munich midfielder was hot property following the 2006 World Cup, but Sir Alex Ferguson had the foresight to tie up a deal before the tournament.

Hargreaves was immense in periods, especially the 2007/08 season which culminated in the European Cup success, but injuries limited the Canadian-born Englishman to another 11 appearances over the next three campaigns before he left to make hilarious YouTube videos. I mean join Manchester City.

Michael Carrick

This one appears harsh but stick with me. Carrick was given the number 16 shirt and was, therefore, proclaimed as the new Keane - the latest in a long line of players to take back the United midfield. Codswallop.

By this time Fergie had learnt his lesson: you don’t replace top quality players, you evolve and move on. Keane was a one-off, an inspirational midfield dynamo and Mr Manchester United. Carrick is a different beast altogether: a cultured ball playing midfielder, with an excellent range of passing and top notch defensive positioning.

Now in his seventh season with United, Carrick is on course to win his fifth league title, to which you can add a Champions League and a League Cup. More importantly he’s finally getting some credit for the job he’s been doing all along. Carrick hasn’t failed to deliver, he’s just brought something that nobody expected - after all there’s only one Keano.

 

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