There are surnames that carry a legacy with them, a sense of anticipation ready to turn into a heavy burden of expectations even when two players share nothing more than their last name, rather than a blood relationship. At Old Trafford, one of those surnames happens to be widely common in the isle across the Irish Sea.
The original Keane, Roy, has grown increasingly unpopular with United supporters since his acrimonious departure from the club more than seven years ago, but while his performances on ITV haven’t exactly resembled an olive branch waived towards the club, it’s impossible to forget that Roy Keane was the heart and soul of Manchester United for 12 years, embroidering the club’s values like few have done since.
Keane’s attitude, as well as his often too quickly forgotten footballing abilities were such that, up until now, two extremely talented youngsters in the ranks of United’s youth team were spoken about more because of their surname than because of their ability. But, for one of them, things might be about to change.
Signed as trainees in 2009, Michael and William Keane took the youth team by storm. Despite being twin brothers, they didn’t share similarities on the pitch where one, Michael, was tasked with keeping goals out while the other’s only focus was to score them.
Their performances earned them a first team call-up, with Will making his Premier League debut in the 3-2 defeat against Blackburn Rovers last year, after having been an unused sub against Wolves in 2010-11, while Michael played a cameo in United’s win in the fourth round of the League Cup at Aldershot Town before being named on the bench for the defeat at Anfield in the FA Cup.
Following an impressive display in United’s 5-4 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Keane was sent on loan to polish his game and acquire some much-needed first team football experience. Since joining Leicester City alongside teammate Jesse Lingard for a month-long loan in November, the results have been so impressive that Keane, who had initially extended his loan spell until the end of January following an hamstring injury that ruled him out for the first few weeks, at the end of January agreed to remain at the King Power Stadium since the end of the season.
The former England U19 defender, who also represented Ireland at U17,U18 and U19 level, has so far played 17 games for Leicester City, finding the net three times in the last nine games, his most recent goalscoring effort a header that earned Leicester a point against league-leaders Cardiff.
Keane has progressed at a fantastic rate and was awarded his first England U21 cap by Stuart Pearce for yesterday’s clash vs Austria in Brighton, in which England extended their winning run to nine games. By the time Keane made his appearance on the pitch with 77 minutes gone, the match was done and dusted but it was another crucial step in his development.
A ball-playing centre-back, Keane is quickly developing into an extremely exciting prospect for United who will undoubtedly receive a number of loan offers for the 20-year-old this summer. With Rio Ferdinand still to pen a new deal with the club and Nemanja Vidic forced to hand-pick his games, United could even decide to promote Keane to the first team, but it’s an eventuality that seems more unlikely as it would deprive him of the opportunity of playing regularly. Furthermore, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones offer depth of choice as far as the back four is concerned.
United were handsomely rewarded with one of the last defender they decided to ship out on loan, with Jonny Evans surging to prominence over the last two seasons, as he went from liability to be one of the first names on the team sheet. The Northern Irishman is the player that many compare Keane to and if the 20-year-old continues to develop at this rate, in a couple of years the “There’s only one Keano” chant will be sung with even more regularity and gusto.
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