Manchester United vs Arsenal
Premier League: 2001
United is up 5-1 on Arsenal before the half.
An Arsenal/United game is supposed to be trench warfare. It’s supposed to be Arsene Wenger/Sir Alex Ferguson, two great tacticians, presiding over a meat grinder. It’s Keane/Viera knocking elbows. Beckham/Ashley Cole racing at each other down the sides.
And it’s 5-1?
The 40th minute, 5-1 United: The United fans are singing. Arsenal slowly mount an attack, but Beckham gets his knee on a pass. Dwight Yorke, who is playing like a madman*, wins the ball then gives it back to Beckham.
Knock the ball around, kill the minutes, go into halftime up 5-1? Why not? United is ten points up in the league, on pace to win their third title in a row, they already have this game in the bag.
Why not? Because Roy Keane won’t allow it. Beckham is on the ball, and Keane comes barreling forward, overlapping him. He runs like a mental patient who’s done a bit of track. He’s got his head shaved to the pale core, so do other United players.
Beckham starts racing the ball forward, Keane sweeps around, lord knows what he yells. Yorke joins in, and United have formed an attacking unit that looks like a three-pronged fork coming right at Arsenal’s gullet.
Up 5-1 and looking for more.
That’s how Roy Keane plays.
That’s how he makes others around him play.
He doesn’t take a moment off.
He doesn’t go soft on an opponent.
He doesn’t give a shit — he’ll score all afternoon. Racking it up? Yeah. Of course he is. This is Arsenal they’re playing. The team that’s second in the standings. The team that’s the best suited to challenge United for their top spot. Maybe not this year, maybe next year.
That’s a team you have to hit in the mouth.
And Keane will do that. He'll hit you in the mouth. Happily.
*Yorke ends up with 3 goals and an assist.