Keane takes revenge on Haaland

The name Alf-Inge Haaland will forever be associated with the Manchester derby, and a certain Mr Roy Keane. Back in April 2001, Keane virtually ended the career of the Norwegian with a horror tackle and earned himself what must be classed as the most deserved red card in Premier League history as the clock ticked down in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Haaland would play just 48 more minutes of football.



To begin to tell the story of an otherwise relatively dull 1-1 draw, one has to go back four years to a clash between Manchester United and Leeds United on September 27, 1997. It was two months after Roy Keane had been handed the captaincy of United by Alex Ferguson and Keane was, according to his autobiography, “in no shape at all” for a tie that came a mere few days after a drinking session that had left him physically and emotionally exhausted despite the fact it was only approaching the ninth game of the season.

Still, evoking his traditional warrior spirit, Keane was handed a start, but he clashed with Leeds midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland throughout. The Irishman would later claim that he had been baited all game but, with United 1-0 down and five minutes of the game left to go, he snapped. Off the ball, Keane kicked out at Haaland, first with his right foot and then his left.

“I was trying to trip him up rather than kick him. I knew it probably meant a booking, but f**k it…” Keane later wrote, but he paid the consequences for his actions. The United skipper caught his studs in the turf and tore his cruciate ligament and, to add insult to injury, was booked as he lay stricken on the turf.

Haaland, however, was unaware of the seriousness of the injury. Standing over Keane, the Norwegian accused him of faking it in a bid to stop the referee from brandishing a card. He wasn’t to know that Keane’s knee had snapped but – with his opponent in serious pain on the pitch – left him in no doubt what he thought of his ‘play-acting’.

Paul Hayward, in the Daily Telegraph, wrote: “Keane by name, and manically keen by nature, Manchester United’s captain struck Alfie Haaland with a tackle so vindictive that it would have aroused the interest of the constabulary had it been made in an ale-speckled pub that Saturday night. ‘Gotcha!’ is what Keane apparently said to his old enemy as Haaland clutched his leg to make sure all the components of a limb were still there. Blackjack dealers have delivered cards less swiftly than David Elleray did in reaching for red. It is a measure of Keane’s capacity for belligerence that no Manchester City player attempted to exact retribution with a fist or even a handbag.”

One of the key passages saw the United skipper admit that he set out to injure Haaland purposefully that day. “I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard,” he wrote. “The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

The 31-year-old was asked if he had any regrets about the Haaland incident, but replied: “No. Even in the dressing room afterwards I had no remorse. My attitude was, ‘What goes around comes around’. He got his just rewards. My attitude is an eye for an eye.”

However, soon after the Observer interview was conducted, Keane apparently rang the magazine insisting that he had “never in my career set out to deliberately injure any player” and had made “a genuine effort to play the ball” in the incident. The Irishman would also point to ghostwriter Eamon Dunphy for what he called “a degree of artistic licence” over the famous quote. Dunphy admitted he paraphrased certain sections of Keane’s book, but it was not enough to placate the FA and Keane was handed a record £150,000 fine (two weeks’ wages) and a five-match ban over his comments.

What happened next? Haaland was released by City in February of 2003 and retired soon after, unable to get his knees back to full working order thanks both to the challenge and a long-standing complaint. He considered legal action, but backed down and, in 2007, he was interviewed about the incident by the Daily Mail but could not bring himself to mention Keane by name. “It is still there, every day,” the footballer-turned property developer said. “The knee still hurts, that isn’t going to go away. I have to accept that. Did that tackle end my career? Well, I never played a full game again, did I? It seems like a great coincidence, don’t you think?”

Read Keane takes revenge on Haaland on ESPN Soccernet

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