# On the box
TV Wrap: Keane shows Neville how to do it in compelling Sky Sports appearance
While Neville is a much better analyst, Keane proved more adept at talking about Manchester United.

ROY KEANE CONTINUES to confound, spending last Wednesday night in a Sky Sports studio having once said he’d “rather go to the dentist” than do punditry.


But there he was last midweek, just another man in a nice suit with his legs spread slightly too wide, sitting in a studio that was once the domain of – to quote Keane again – “people like Richard Keys trying to sell something that’s not there.”

Keane’s agreeing to punditry is like Caligula’s appointing his favourite horse as a consul to the Roman senate. Is this some bold and brave act of satire, or just the act of a man gripped by madness?

Sometimes, when Keane is saying what’s expected of him and struggling to flatten the grin on his face, this column gets the feeling that this all some kind of act of irony on Keane’s part, showing this is nothing to take seriously as it is so easily done.

As Keane wrote in his most recent book:

When I heard, ‘I liked your commentary last night’ I knew. I was only talking bullshit, like the rest of them. Hopefully my bullshit was a bit better.”

He has been doing TV on and off for years, of course, so most of us know by now that he isn’t very good at the analysis bit.

Keane rarely adds to your understanding of what’s going on in a game… in fact he rarely adds to your understanding of anything other than Roy Keane.

Almost all of his analysis centres on the abstractions he inspired in his teammates but has never fully articulated as a manager: effort, temperment, desire, hunger, character, leadership.

It can be said that the point of Keane is that he is never satisfied on this front: he is probably the only man on Earth who would turn off Game of Thrones complaining that there simply aren’t enough characters.

“Yeah, I see seven kingdoms, but where are the leaders?”

But on Wednesday, Sky didn’t want Keane to add to anyone’s understanding of what was going on at Manchester United.

They merely wanted him to confirm everyone’s view that everything at the club is, indeed, fucked.

So Roy was wheeled out as a totem of the glorious past against which today’s moral turpitude can be measured; this was Keane as a kind of perverse Eden from which United have fallen.

And boy, did he do it well.

Granted, you pretty much know what Keane is going to say before he says it…but he is just so good at saying it.

He’s the punditry equivalent of Arjen Robben cutting in on his left foot.

Highlights included his deriding of some of the United squad as “bluffers”, responding to Paul Pogba’s rallying call by saying “I wouldn’t believe a word he’s said” and the dead look with which he delivered his “things got so heated they were throwing their hair gel at each other” gag.

Graeme Souness sat in thrall to it all while Joe Hart looked on with the meek, discomfited look of an Evangelical who picked up the wrong leaflet and ended up at an Old Testament blood sacrifice.

Gary Neville, meanwhile, must have felt like calling in Patrick Vieira for support.

He clashed with Roy over Matteo Darmian’s non-tackle for the second goal, with Neville trying to make a more elaborate, nuanced argument that Darmian was simply just too tired having been pulled every which way by City’s surgical style of play, and this level of performance is simply as good as this United squad can give.

“Gary, it’s two yards man!”.

Keane is always going to win an argument on his terms.

Sky Sports Football / YouTube

It wasn’t a great week for Neville, and three risible Manchester United performances in a row exposed his ongoing struggle to extricate himself from his loyalties, which at this point are more tangled than Japanese Knotweed.

Neville has had trouble covering United since he literally kissed the manager on television in Paris, and over the last week has rattled furiously through the stages of grief over the further decline of his football club.

Last Sunday week, after the 4-0 loss to Everton was the anger – a “rancid” performance – and in his set-to with Keane after the Manchester derby was the bargaining that this was, in fact, the best United could do.

Hence his ludicrous in-game commentary, during which he was continually impressed with United’s effort while they were being utterly outclassed.

After Sunday’s draw with Chelsea, meanwhile, came the acceptance that United wouldn’t be in the Champions League next season but big players would continue to arrive, as this is an “amazing football club.”

Neville has yet to criticise Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and you suspect it will be very difficult for him to do so, while he has also managed to commit to a new style of punditry in which he is asked to not say things; “keeping his counsel” on the players he believes aren’t good pulling his weight.

Neville has been an outstanding pundit for Sky, and is far better at the job than Keane, but with United you feel he is treading a line, giving extra thought to every word he says and holding something back. 

Keane doesn’t have that problem, given he is beholden solely to a character called Roy Keane. 

- Originally published at 16.49 

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