Keane v Robson. Over the seasons, Manchester United have boasted some of the greatest captains to play the game. The club’s success is built on big names bringing big performances. But it’s also built on heart. Maybe more than anything. Two players stand out among United’s modern legions as the characters who maybe best exemplify spirit and heart and passion for the game. Both captains, both overseeing thrillingly successful United sides. Keane v Robson. Who was better?
Keane V Robson: Roy Keane was better.
As far as passion goes, you have to go a long way to out-do Roy Keane. he joined United in 1993 and captained them from 1997 to 2005. He captained Ireland for most of playing career for his home nation. Pele named him in the FIFA 100 list of the greatest living players in 2004 and the Times had him at number 11 (only 11?) in a list of the hardest 50 players in the history of the game.
It was as a replacement for the 36 year old Bryan Robson that Manchester United signed Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest in 1993. Keane was granted a run in the team thanks to Robson’s recurring injury problems and it allowed the Corkman to copper-fasten his place with some barnstorming performances. he scored twice on his home debut. He bagged the winner in the Manchester derby. He grew to be a key factor in the side that defended their Premier League title.
Between 1997, when he took over the captaincy, and 2005, Keane won the FA Cup 3 times and appeared as a losing finalist once. He won the Community Shield three times and the Champions League once (although he didn’t appear in the actual final due to his heroics against Juventus in the Semi-Final which got him a suspension). One Intercontinental Cup followed too. On top of all this, Keane led United to 5 Premier League titles, maybe the greatest measure of the man.
What made Keane stand out as a player was his drive to never accept anything less than the best, than victory. His embodiment of the Alex Ferguson spirit that was still fighting in the 98th minute of extra time. And his tireless facilitation of the players around him. Paul Scholes was Paul Scholes for United because Keane did the groundwork to let him play in the ways he was never granted for England.
Role in the team.
Likewise for Beckham and Giggs. In a side so focused on attack, some serious cover was needed in front of often decidedly shaky defences. Roy Keane proved a midfield wall as well as a midfield engine for every one of his 12 seasons as United.
The year United landed the Champions league title, Keane led them to a Premier League and FA Cup treble as well. He scored 51 goals in 480 games for United, which is better than 10% scoring rate from a defensive midfielder. He bagged 33 assists too. His tackles are probably incalculable. In the pantheon of great modern captains in the English game he stands alongside Shearer, Vieira, Terry and Gerrard and probably ahead of them. Keane v Robson.
Honours with Manchester United:
- Premier League: 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03
- FA Community Shield: 1993, 1996, 1997, 2003
- FA Cup: 1993–94, 1995–96, 1998–99, 2003–04
- UEFA Champions League: 1998–99
- Intercontinental Cup: 1999
- Premier League PFA Team of the Year: 1992–93, 1996–97, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2001–02
- PFA Team of the Century: (1907–2007)
- Premier League Player of the Month: October 1998, December 1999
- FWA Footballer of the Year: 2000
- PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 2000
- ESM Team of the Year: 1999–2000
- Premier League 10 Seasons Awards: (1992–93 to 2001–02)
- English Football Hall of Fame: 2004
- FIFA 100
- Premier League 20 Seasons Awards: (1992–93 to 2011–12)
- Fantasy Teams of the 20 Seasons (Panel choice)
Keane v Robson: Bryan Robson was better.
It could be argued that while Keane was the captain that led Manchester United through a period of phenomenal success, Robson was the captain that helped build that team. He was the longest serving captain in the club’s history, scored a fantastic 74 goals in 345 games and in 2011, Robson was voted the greatest ever Man United player from a poll of ex players.
He joined United for a then world record fee of £1.5 million in 1981 and went on to help cement the red number 7 shirt previously worn by George Best as among the most mythical in the game. In the 1983 FA Cup final replay, Robson scored 2 goals in a 4-0 thrashing and then declined to be the first ever player to score a hat trick in the big game by allowing regular penalty taker Arnold Muhren to put it beyond all doubt. It was the first trophy he’d list as captain.
in 1984, Robson scored twice again in the European Cup Winners Cup victory over Barcelona. Juventus offered him a transfer but were unprepared to meet the astronomical (for the time) £3million fee. In 1985 he captained the club to another FA Cup victory.
The ferguson era begins.
These were barren enough years league wise for Man United, with their trophy haul limited to Cup competitions. Alex Ferguson took over management duties in 1986 and put in the hard work early on to build a team which would one day reach great heights. It took time. It wasn’t till 1990 that Robson lifted his first trophy under Ferguson, becoming the first United captain to lift the FA Cup on 3 occasions.
His struggle with injury ruled him out of a lot of games from that point on, but he was fit to play in the United side that beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Cup Winners Cup final. He held his place even with the arrival of younger players like Paul Ince and Neill Webb, despite his list of injuries and continued to captain the club.
a league title.
It wasn’t until the 1993-93 season that Robson would lift his first League Champions Medal. He scored on the final day of the season, against Wimbledon, to celebrate. At 36, and suffering greatly from injuries, Robson started to find his opportunities at the side increasingly limited, especially after the signing of Irishman Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest.
His stunning goal rate, especially in crucial games, work ethic and passion for winning mark him out as a key factor in the construction of the United side which would go on to great things. Maybe the most important. Keane v Robson.
Honours with Manchester United:
- Premier League (2): 1992–93, 1993–94
- FA Cup (3): 1982–83, 1984–85, 1989–90
- Football League Cup: 1991–92
- FA Charity Shield (3): 1983, 1990 (shared), 1993
- European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1990–91
- European Super Cup: 1991
- PFA First Division Team of the Year (6): 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1988–89
- PFA Team of the Century (1977-1996): 2007
- First Division Goal of the Season: 1985–86
- Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year: 1988–89
- Football League 100 Legends
- English Football Hall of Fame Inductee
- FWA Tribute Award: 2006
So there you have it. Keane v Robson. Who was better? Votes and comments below!