Roy Keane's renegade streak always marked him out as a potentially great pundit. His performance on Tuesday night shows he is now delivering on that promise, writes Jonathan LiewDespite finishing as a goalless draw, the World Cup qualifier between Spain and Ireland in Seville in 1992 was notable for two reasons.The first was the memorable and unintentionally mirthful reaction of RTE commentator George Hamilton to the Spain manager’s decision to substitute Emilio Butragueno: “He’s pulling him off! The Spanish manager is pulling his captain off!" The other was that it was the night when Roy Keane came of age as a world-class midfielder.Jack Charlton’s Ireland was an ugly side: brutish, limited but wholly effective, a cultural legacy you might argue the current side are still struggling to escape. But in the middle of all this lumping and thumping stood the peerless, 21-year-old Keane: effortlessly gliding the ball around, drifting into space, gathering the ball with one touch and keeping it glued there, as poignantly distinct as a child singing a madrigal in the middle of a cage fight.In Charlton’s team, even the simple act of playing a short pass felt like a small rebellion. “When I get the ball, I try and play a bit of football,” he told Irish journalist Liam Mackey after that game. “But, obviously, the way we play — which I suppose is the long ball game — I have to be careful.”It was early proof of Keane’s renegade streak. There is a part of him that is not only comfortable being completely at odds with his environment, but actually rather enjoys it. It is what made him a great footballer. It may yet be what makes him an even greater pundit.Keane’s performance for ITV last night invites parallels with Seville 1992. His broadcasting career is at a roughly similar point: nascent, burgeoning, dotted with moments of real promise but awaiting a truly definitive performance. In just a few short minutes at Old Trafford, Keane provided it.Let us deal fairly swiftly with the issue of whether Nani actually deserved a red card: for the purposes of punditry, it doesn’t matter. The minimum requirement for a broadcaster is to ensure that viewers are not left ignorant of the rules. Adrian Chiles recited the relevant rule at the outset: job done. Now sit back and enjoy the bun fight.Keane took stage first, launching a perfectly judged stream of invective laced with poison eyebrows and implied exclamation marks. All the tools of the arch polemicist were on display. In order to aid annotation of the text that follows, these have been numbered.1) a view entirely antithetical to the prevailing tide of opinion2) a faint whiff of hypocrisy, particularly with regard to one’s own career3) a vague antipathy towards a nebulous countervailing force (in this case, human emotion)4) a determination to close down all dissenting opinions5) the occasional detour into the surreal and/or utterly irrelevantAnd so he began. “I actually think he’s made the right call . Whatever people are getting upset about , any time I was sent off in my career I always thought : ‘Did I give the referee a chance to send me off?’ And if the answer was ‘yeah’, then it’s out of your hands. Everyone’s upset about it , but it’s dangerous play.”At this point, Lee Dixon attempted to interpose himself: “Do you think ...”“Whether he meant it or not is irrelevant! ” Keane finished triumphantly, before graciously yielding the floor.Then, as Gareth Southgate attempted to speak for the first time, Keane butted in again. “It’s dangerous play   ,” he said. “It’s a red card.”Keane allowed Southgate to speak for exactly six seconds. “You say he’s not aware of the player coming, Gareth ,” he interrupted. Does he not think there’ll be other footballers on the pitch?  Does he think he’s going to have 20 yards to himself?”“The ref might argue it was a brave decision, Roy,” Chiles suggested. Keane glared at Chiles as if he had just suggested they film a Harlem Shake.“Doesn’t matter if it was brave or not ,” Keane retorted. “And listen, Nani’s a quick boy to go down anyway . I think the referee got it right . We can argue all day . It was dangerous play  .”What marvellous television. And while ITV get a lot of stick for their football coverage, when they get it right, they really do get it right.More importantly, it was a glimpse of the hall-of-fame pundit Keane could yet become. In his early appearances for ITV, he appeared laboured, still wearing the sackcloth of the ex-Championship manager rather than the laurels of the seven-time Premier League winner. But just as in everything else – except, ironically, Keane’s management career – he has grown quite magnificently into the role.Those who were in Seville on November 18, 1992 were convinced they were watching an all-time great in the making. Those who were in front of a television on March 5, 2013 may have some idea of how they felt.
Nice to see a positive article about Roy Keane's honest assessment of the Nani red card. It would be very interesting to know how many of the rabid critics denouncing him from our fanbase, most of whom I'd wager have never paid to go to Old Trafford and watch him perform, are the same people that moan about how shit Match of the Day (their only source of watching United) presenters are for sitting on the fence and not having any real debate.
Quite bizarre how some folks minds work