Roy Keane’s horror tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland may not have ended his career
Like Michael Jordan’s iconic buzzer-beater in 1989 going down in history as ‘The Shot’, Roy Keane on Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001 might forever be know as ‘The Tackle’.
Or like Muhammad Ali’s ‘Phantom Punch’ on Sonny Liston in 1965, it’s one of those moments which goes beyond the boundaries of its own sporting time and takes on a life of its own.
All three of those events took place before YouTube was invented in 2005 – and yet a modern audience, many of whom probably weren’t alive when they happened, have watched them millions of times over.
Fact quickly becomes blurred with myth, legend and fantasy as stories travel through generations.
We picture that iconic Neil Leifer shot of Ali standing over Liston at his glorious best, but forget that fight was marred by controversy over whether the punch even connected or its victim was properly counted out.
The video of former Man United captain Keane’s own knockout blow on ex-City midfielder Haaland is titled ‘Roy Keane Ends Haaland’s Career In Manchester Derby’ – but that’s not true.
Haaland didn’t come off after the challenge, played half of a Norway friendly four days later and featured for 68 minutes of City’s next league game.
While it’s possible the tackle had a collateral effect and he did undergo surgery that summer, Keane targeted the right knee and the operation was on his left.
Besides, this is a moment that doesn’t need hyperbole. Just watching it is enough to nauseate and shock like a horror film.
The facts are these: with five minutes remaining of a Manchester derby, Keane produced a disgusting tackle on Haaland, designed to hurt the player rather than win the ball.
As referee David Elleray brandished the red card, Keane stood over his opponent and goaded: “Don’t ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries. And tell your pal Wetherall there’s some for him as well.”
It’s no secret the challenge was motivated by revenge, even if Keane has backtracked on that.
Back in 1997, when at Leeds, Haaland stood over Keane during a match against Man United, moaning at the Irishman for faking injury when he’d actually just ruptured his ACL.
Speaking in his controversial 2002 autobiography, Keane said: “I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”
While the original offence got Keane a £5,000 fine and three-match suspension, the comments in his book got him a further £150,000 fine and five-match ban for suggesting it was intentional and profiting from it.
Those allegations hurt Keane, who moved to clear things up in another autobiography in 2014, although he still refuses to show any remorse for the tackle.
The former Man United captain wrote: “[He] pissed me off, shooting his mouth off. He was an absolute p**** to play against. Niggling, sneaky.
“I did want to nail him and let him know what was happening. I wanted to hurt him and stand over him and go: ‘Take that, you c***.’
“I don’t regret that. But I had no wish to injure him. It was action; it was football. It was dog eats dog.
“I’ve kicked lots of players and I know the difference between hurting somebody and injuring somebody. I didn’t go to injure Haaland. When you play sport, you know how to injure somebody.
“There was no premeditation. I’d played against Haaland three or four times between the game against Leeds, in 1997, when I injured my cruciate and the game when I tackled him, in 2001, when he was playing for Manchester City.
“If I’d been this madman out for revenge, why would I have waited years for an opportunity to injure him?
“Was I going around for years thinking: ‘I’m going to get him, I’m going to get him.’? No. Was he at the back of my mind? Of course he was.
“Like Rob Lee was, like David Batty was, like Alan Shearer was, like Patrick Vieira was. All these players were in the back of my mind: ‘If I get a chance I’m going to f***ing hit you, of course I am.’
“Haaland finished the game and played four days later, for Norway. A couple of years later he tried to claim that he’d had to retire because of the tackle. He was going to sue me. It was a bad tackle but he was still able to play four days later.”
It’s true, Haaland did try to suggest the tackle ended his career before backtracking when Keane released his second autobiography.
The Norwegian told the Daily Mail in 2003: “Did that tackle end my career? Well, I never played a full game again, did I?”
But then he told BBC in 2014: “I don’t blame him for kicking me in other games or that particular game. What I was concerned and worried about is that he said, in his first book, that he wanted to take revenge. And I don’t think that’s part and parcel of football.
“I don’t blame him. I never actually said he finished my career. It was my last full game in England, so maybe he had something to do with it.”
Why do we bring this up now, you ask? Well, you may have heard that Alf-Inge Haaland has a rather famous son.
As Keane reemerges as a cultural phenomenon on our TV screens and, erm, Instagram, that tackle might also become very relevant again in a few months’ time.
Erling Haaland, the 20-year-old superstar at Borussia Dortmund, is tipped by many to become the best striker in the world one day and he’s probably up there already.
Alf-Inge, who not only played for United’s fiercest rivals Leeds and Manchester City but also has that whole thing with Keane, holds great influence over his son’s future.
Erling himself was born in Leeds and current Whites star Stuart Dallas revealed the striker sang ‘Marching On Together’ in his ear during an international match recently.
Long story short, there are a lot of reasons why Erling, and his dad, wouldn’t want him to go to Old Trafford this summer. And there are plenty of reasons why they’d want to go to Man City, who are also thought to be interested, instead.
The youngster famously rejected the Red Devils in favour of Dortmund when he left Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020 – and now United face competition from every big club across Europe when Erling eventually leaves Germany.
Getting his son to snub United twice, denying them exactly what they need, would surely taste pretty sweet for Alf-Inge.
However, Erling maintains a good relationship with United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their time together at Molde, and if Alf-Inge’s comments in 2019 are anything to go by, he wouldn’t begrudge his son the move.
The Norwegian told Danish outlet TV2: “It would be nice. It is important to distinguish between being a supporter and a job.
“So I have a very relaxed relationship with that. It’s a little different when it’s serious. Yes, I think most players dream of being in the Premier League at one time or another.
“It’s the league that gets the most attention around, and it has very good quality teams. There is no doubt the Premier League is attractive to him.”
Manchester United have even been told to sell one of their star men in an attempt to fund a move for Haaland, who has now set a stunning Champions League record, reaching 20 goals in just 14 games – 10 faster than previous holder Harry Kane.
“Haaland’s going to be in-demand. You’re probably not getting him for less than 300 grand-a-week wages,” former Chelsea ace Jason Cundy told talkSPORT.
“You know what United should do, they should move David De Gea on and free up those wages, they’ve got Dean Henderson.”
Given Haaland’s current form and trajectory that might be a snip.