Roy Keane has been out of club management since he was sacked by Ipswich Town in 2011 with the Tractor Boys languishing in the lower realms of the Championship. Keane failed to conjure the magic he had produced during his two years at Sunderland in East Anglia, resulting in an unceremonious exit from Portman Road.
Keane almost returned to Sunderland in February 2022 to replace Lee Johnson as he was widely linked with a return to the Stadium of Light. However, he backed out at the 11th hour, and the Black Cats opted to hire Alex Neil for their promotion push in League One. Which they achieved via the play offs.
Keane has now been linked with the Hibernian post that was vacated after Shaun Maloney was sacked after just four months in charge at Easter Road. The report could be just another tenuous link for Keane’s return to the game, but on the other hand, there is no smoke without fire.
The 50-year-old is seemingly interested in a return to management, and although he did have minor success with Sunderland, the game has changed a great deal in the 11 years since he was lasted entrusted with sole charge of a club. Keane may still harbour ambitions of leading Ireland into a major tournament, or perhaps even grander ideas like one day taking charge of Manchester United. However, unless he can prove his skill at a lower level, he is unlikely to be handed the keys to Old Trafford any time soon.
United have a strong international presence, especially in Asia where they have large contingents of supporters in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea among others. United has committed to its fanbase after announcing a pre-season tour of Thailand in the summer of 2022.
A high-profile figure such as Keane would have certainly fit the bill in the past as a manager on the sideline, being easily recognisable to fans all over the world due to his performances as a player and his career as an analyst. However, given United could be an outsider in the race for the top four next season, even with the best sports betting sites in Thailand and elsewhere, the task would be beyond a man like Keane, forcing them to look elsewhere.
New manager Erik ten Hag faces a challenge to lead the club back to the table to defy the odds. Keane will either be sympathising with the Dutchman on the sideline or critiquing United once more in the television studio. Whatever Keane decides it will be box-office entertainment as ever.
Keane enjoyed immediate success in his first role in management. Sunderland was seemingly slipping towards back-to-back relegations in 2006 after falling out of the Premier League with a then-record low 15 points. Niall Quinn endured a disastrous start to his era as chairman, losing the opening five matches of the season.
Keane’s appointment dragged the Black Cats out of the doldrums and returned them to the Premier League at the first attempt. Under the Irishman, Sunderland continually scored late goals in the top flight to avoid relegation and into the security of 15th place.
The Black Cats prided themselves on hard work and determination to battle for Keane on the pitch. Matters began to sour in the 2008/09 season when Keane signed El Hadji-Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda and Djibril Cisse soured the team spirit at the Stadium of Light.
The work ethic and drive in the dressing room was gone, and despite the urging of owner Ellis Short to move to the North East, Keane refused and subsequently resigned citing a disagreement with the American. It ended Keane’s best spell in the dugout and he is still adored by the Sunderland fans for his achievements in his two years at the club.
Keane spent a year out of the game before being hired by Ipswich and owner Marcus Evans to attempt to steer the Tractor Boys back into the Premier League. Although he used a large contingent of the players that brought him success at Sunderland, Keane was unable to deliver the same results. The magic was not there and at times Keane seemed disinterested in his role. He had the same fire in press conferences, but Keane lacked tactical and strategic nous on the field.
The difference between his time at Sunderland and Ipswich was notable in the spirit of his teams. While at Sunderland, Keane still had an impenetrable aura that galvanised the club. At Ipswich, there were chinks in his armour that were not helped by a poor relationship with Evans and misfires in recruitment. It was notable that he left the Tractor Boys in a worse place than we he found them.
Should Keane Return?
The ship has probably sailed on Keane as a manager. He could have taken the Sunderland job if he hadn’t been unable to reach an agreement on a contract, which would have required him to accept the position on his own terms. If that’s going to be the case, there are not many teams that will be queueing up to sign him as he has proven that his managerial skills are average at best.
A dream return to United seems impossible, while the Irish FA may be warded off by the fiery press conferences that he recorded during his time as Martin O’Neill’s number two. Don’t be surprised to see Keane remain in the TV studio.