He was once the “new Ruud van Nistelrooy”

It was actually against Blackburn that Keane made his United debut, a 3-2 loss at Old Trafford on New Years Eve 2011 that is perhaps best remembered for Wayne Rooney who was dropped after a drunken night. the day after Christmas. “I don’t really remember that much, but it worked out well for me and probably got me into the team! Keane said laughing. “So well done Wazza! “

Keane was one of the most exciting young prospects in United’s academy at the time, a ruthless striker whose finish had drawn comparisons to Ruud van Nistelrooy and who had been a key part of the winning side of the FA Youth Cup earlier that year with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and his twin brother Michael, now with Everton.

But, just five months later, he suffered the first of two cross injuries to his left knee and has not replayed for 19 months, a misfortune that will repeat itself over the years to come and lead to so many missed opportunities that it’s easy to see why he’s relishing his second coming as a player.

After a series of loans, Keane found himself at Old Trafford in January 2016 and confident to seize his chance under Louis van Gaal. He came on against Sunderland the following month and was then called up again from the bench in an FA Cup draw at Shrewsbury only for being the victim of a disaster attempting a shot. “As soon as I touched it, my groin burst – it felt like my leg had come loose from my body,” Keane recalls. “I tried to run away and I couldn’t move.”

One man’s pain is invariably another’s gain and, three days later, in a Europa League draw at Old Trafford, another young striker who had been behind Keane in the pecking order would take full advantage of a series of injuries to highlight his name. with two first goals in a 5-1 win. A sliding door moment for Keane would prove to be quite a stepping stone for Marcus Rashford.

“I went to America for surgery and remember landing in Philadelphia on Sunday a few days after the Midtjylland game and the physio who was with me turned on his phone and said Marcus had scored two more against Arsenal “, Keane recalls. “I was happy for him but I was like ‘Flippin’ hell, it could’ve been me.”

In truth, Keane’s most difficult moment was yet to come. He had moved to Hull for £ 1million that summer but, just 10 weeks later, he broke his crusader again. “Mentally it was the worst of all injuries to deal with,” he said. By the time he returned over a year later, the manager had changed four times and he was a forgotten man.

No more, however. After initially accepting a short-term contract to join Wigan last season, Keane’s goals helped keep the club in Ligue 1 as they battled the administration and he is now one of the leading figures of a team of new look which pushes to the promotion.


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