Roy Keane was key to Manchester United’s dominance over English football in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Irishman was an absolute warrior in midfield throughout his career and on top of that, he was a genuinely world-class footballer.
Keane possessed a first touch better than most, was a brilliant tackler, could dictate the tempo of games and even chipped in with crucial goals.
What more could you want from a midfielder?
If you were asked to name the genuinely world-class players from Sir Alex Ferguson’s long reign as United manager, Keane would simply have to be one of them.
But which others would feature? Well, opinions on that matter will differ greatly, especially as there’s so many top-quality players to pick from.
Keane actually gave his answers to the tough question when he was a guest on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football back in 2019.
"I think we both really loved and wanted to do what was best for Manchester United." ❤
"Senior players ultimately run the dressing room." 💪
Roy Keane lifts the lid on his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United dressing room. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/a93a85L6bH— Sky Sports Retro (@SkySportsRetro) September 30, 2019
After watching United and Arsenal play out a rather dull 1-1 draw, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher asked him: “In the years you played at Manchester United, who would you say were the world-class players? Where’s your bar on world class?”
Keane responded: “Well, we never gave ourselves an opportunity to talk about players being world class. I felt that if we ever went down that road we would be getting ahead of ourselves.”
Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd? (Football Terrace)
1. Ryan Giggs
“If I look back now, you’d have to class Giggsy. I always class the world-class players as lads who were doing it for nine, 10, 11 [years] – obviously Giggsy’s done it for a lot longer. To me, that’s the key to being a really good player: you’ve got to be consistent.
“We see players now, they’ve having a good month and patting themselves on the back. You have to be good for years and years, and Giggsy would have been a prime example.”
2. Mark Hughes
“Listen, Mark Hughes was a brilliant striker.”
3. Eric Cantona
“Eric [Cantona] was a brilliant player. I know people say ‘Eric didn’t do it on this stage and that stage – the international stage… but a brilliant player to play with.”
4. Paul Scholes
“Scholsey was brilliant.”
5. Denis Irwin
“Denis Irwin… My god, imagine if Denis Irwin was playing now. He could play left-back, right-back, get you a goal, knew how to defend, never injured, a brilliant guy in the dressing room. Denis would be world-class to me – and he’s a Corkman!”
Not a bad list that.
Rooney and Ronaldo’s omissions in particular may surprise a few, but you have to remember that Keane barely played with either of the duo.
The Irish icon acrimoniously left United in November of 2005, just over two years after Ronaldo joined and around 13 months after Rooney arrived from Everton as a teenager.
Schmeichel not featuring on Keane’s list is arguably the biggest shock of the lot, given that the Dane is widely regarded as the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeeper.