In an otherwise dull 2001 Manchester derby, Roy Keane produced one of the worst tackles in Premier League history, effectively shortening the career of Alfe-Inge Haaland.
In 1992, future enemies Roy Keane and Alfe-Inge Haaland were almost teammates. Nottingham Forest contacted Norwegian side Bryne about securing the services of Haaland, but by the time he arrived at the club in December, Keane had already joined Manchester United.
Their paths would not cross until 1997, by which point Haaland had joined Leeds United, and Keane was recognised as one of the pillars of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first great squad.
Keane, by his own admission, had gone on a bender two nights prior that had left him in “no shape at all”, to play, but in a game against a bitter rival, his leadership and fire were deemed necessary. After all, Keane was now Manchester United’s captain, having been given the armband following the retirement of Eric Cantona the previous summer.
Haaland started opposite Keane, and, according to the Irishman, was constantly winding him up. A chirping presence regularly in Keane’s ear as Man United slid towards a narrow 1-0 loss.
With five minutes to go in the game, Keane decided he had had enough, and sought to bring Haaland down from behind with a swiping leg. Instead, Keane’s studs got caught in the turf as he connected with Haaland, snapping the Irishman’s cruciate ligament.
As Keane lay on the turf, Haaland sprung to his feet, unaware of the situation, and rained down verbal abuse, accusing Keane of faking the injury to avoid a booking.
Amidst the pain, Roy Keane remembered that.
“I’d waited long enough”
Haaland and Keane crossed paths a couple of times in the next four years, as the Norwegian was slowly marginalised at Leeds, and then earned a move to Manchester City. If Keane held a grudge, it was well hidden, as the games passed without incident.
That all changed in 2001. With the game petering out to a 1-1 draw, and four minutes left on the clock, Keane saw Haaland in vaguely the same postcode as the ball and took his chance to exact revenge.
Keane launched himself at Haaland, studs at knee height, with such force that he almost flipped the City man over. The only saving grace was that the leg he connected with was off the ground, otherwise, the challenge could have snapped Haaland’s knee.
As Haaland lay in a heap, Keane stood over him in a reversal of the 1997 incident at Elland Road, before walking off as the referee, David Elleray, produced the most deserved red card in Premier League history. Keane was suspended for five games by the FA and subsequently fined.
The Irishman’s autobiography, released in 2002, shed further light on the incident, and poured fuel on the fire, by apparently admitting that the challenge was premeditated.
"“I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard . . . The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.” (Via: ESPN)"
Haaland only managed another 46 minutes of Top-Flight football (largely due to issues with the knee that the United captain did not assault), and for a while considered legal action.
Keane, who has since denied the premeditation of the tackle, saying the line in his book was artistic liberty taken by the author, Eamon Dunphy.
One thing, however, was clear. Keane held a vindictive grudge against Haaland for that incident in 1997. And that is not a man you want holding a grudge against you.