Roy Keane is often guilty of playing to the audience in his football punditry, but he’s no fool.
You do not become arguably Manchester United’s greatest ever captain unless you have some footballing nous, and Keane knew what he was saying when he threw his close friend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under the bus during a recent stint in the Sky Sports studio.
Solskjaer may have been horrified to hear Keane suggest that his job as United manager will be under threat if there aren’t signs of progress at Old Trafford this year. But, deep down, the Norwegian will probably agree. He may even thank Keane for voicing what few others wouldn’t have had the guts to say.
“The remit will be different for Ole this year,” Keane said, assessing what would constitute a successful season.
“I think last year, it was about getting into the top four – I know they got to three semi-finals – but it will be higher this year.
“They will certainly have to get a bit closer to Liverpool and Manchester City. The points total cannot be the same as it has been over the past three or four years.
“Ole will probably have to get his hands on a trophy. I think the honeymoon period is certainly over for Ole, and the pressure starts to mount now, particularly with the performances like that over the last week or so.”
Asked whether Solskjaer’s job could be in danger if those aims aren’t achieved and, again, Keane did not mince his words.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said.
But then came the crux of the matter, the part that Solskjaer will have been glad to hear in the final week of a painstaking summer transfer window at Old Trafford.
“If they don’t invest in the next week, then it’s tough days ahead.”
By this stage, it had become clear who were the intended recipients of Keane’s message, and what it was truly about. It was a warning to the board that they face more upheaval, and the loss of a very popular manager and club legend, unless they open their wallet in the next few days.
As Keane suggested, there is now no excuse for a club of United’s size. Then the Irishman’s old teammate and vice captain Gary Neville added his voice to the list of those concerned about United’s transfer plight when, on Wednesday morning, he took to social media.
“It’s appalling that in this market which is probably the easiest in Premier League [sic] history to get transfers done that United haven’t done more yet! They must get Ole a centre-back, left-back [sic] and forward pre deadline! The others are managing to get things over the line why not United!”
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Again, it’s worth breaking down the quote, pinpointing the “get Ole” part, as Neville like Keane worries for Solskjaer’s future if the board fail to give him the financial backing.
He believes Solskjaer warrants it. If a third place finish, Champions League qualification and a marked improvement in the style of football being played is not enough to guarantee a certain amount of transfer backing for Solskjaer, then Keane is probably right; he will be in trouble, with other clubs strengthening around United all the time.
It does not have to be Jadon Sancho, the player who has dominated United’s thoughts for the entire summer, yet who has not been pictured holding a red shirt at Carrington. It does not even have to be Alex Telles, the Porto left-back who would add something to the United squad, albeit as a rotation signing rather than a ‘marquee’ name.
United simply have to act and follow the advice of two club greats.
Keane’s warning to Solskjaer should act as a warning to the Old Trafford hierarchy; time is running out and business must be done. Otherwise, they risk leaving another club great in the lurch.