Despite only being 19, Michael Keane has twice found himself at the heart of the Manchester United defence this season. And although both these appearances have come in the sometimes-derided Capital One Cup, he’s had to contend with the considerable talents of Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata.
With the Red Devils having conceded 13 goals in nine Premier League games whilst fielding six different defenders – plus Michael Carrick – could there be serious scope in the absence of so many first teamers to see the young Englishman push for a starting place? If the indications of his talent in the League Cup and the reserves are anything to go by then the answer could quite possibly be yes.
With Vidic out until Christmas, and Smalling and Jones no closer to coming back, Michael Keane, as well as his Wednesday night partner Scott Wootton are possible alternatives to an ageing Rio Ferdinand and a certain Mr. Evans who has still yet to quite win over the Old Trafford faithful. What better than to give one of the youngsters a run out against the likes of QPR or Villa? Neither team have shown any indication of threatening the opposition’s goal too frequently.
Michael Keane has already been capped five times by the England U’19s and it is understandable to see why Sir Alex Ferguson trusted the youngster with the task of shackling a fairly experienced Chelsea frontline. The willowy defender posses a strength that belies his slender frame, coupled with a calmness on the ball that is hardly reminiscent of many centre halves. Such is his agility and confidence with the ball that he can switch easily to full-back – a trait that has been a staple of recent homegrown United defenders: John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley.
The only problem with that analysis is that all of the aforementioned players no longer ply their trade at Manchester United. But Michael Keane looks comfortable enough to play at the top level of the English game, with or without United. Time will tell whether or not he has that real quality to hold down a place at the club, but there are the first, budding signs that he could push the likes of Jonny Evans for contention in the side.
Darren Fletcher has already labelled the young defender “fantastic” after his debut against Newcastle United, and he was voted Reserve Player of the Year for 2012, scoring five goals in 30 matches – more than anyone else in Warren Joyce’s reserve team squad. Keane, and his twin brother, Michael, have already attracted a strong amount of interest from clubs both in the top flight and the Championship, keen to snare the talented youngsters on loan. It won’t be long before the impressive defender will be making his Premier League debut, whether for United or on loan elsewhere.
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