Roy Keane sparks uproar as he turns on Nani - video
Former United favourite delivers menacing rant, reducing fellow ITV panellists to cowed silence
AS A PLAYER, Manchester United hard man Roy Keane revelled in the kind of incendiary atmosphere that prevailed at Old Trafford last night.
But as the dust settled on United’s controversial exit from the Champions League, Keane, one of ITV’s panellists for the Real Madrid game, caused uproar among fans who used to idolise him when he insisted that referee Cuneyt Cakir was right to send off Nani.
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The red card, for what looked like an accidental boot to the chest of Alvaro Arbeloa, changed the match, incensed Old Trafford and left Alex Ferguson so "distraught" that he was unable to face the media after the match.
But Keane could hardly wait to get stuck into his fellow panellists - and Nani - in the aftermath.
During a heated exchange with Gareth Southgate, which left the former England defender looking genuinely unsettled, Keane growled: "Everyone's upset about it and it's slightly unlucky, but it's dangerous play. Whether he [Nani] meant it or not is irrelevant. It's dangerous play - it's a red card.
"You have to be aware of other players on the pitch. Does he think he's going to have 20 yards to himself?
Keane, who was sent off 11 times during 12 years at United, added: "Any time I was sent off in my career I always thought, 'Did I give the referee chance to send me off?' And if the answer is yes, then it's out of your hands."
His comments, delivered with calm menace, left his studio colleagues in no doubt about his opinions - and that was before he put the boot into the luckless Nani.
"Nani's a quick boy to go down anyway," said Keane. "He's not the bravest player on the planet."
The result was cowed silence in the ITV studio and absolute uproar on Twitter, where Keane was hounded by some and hailed by others as the voice of reason.
Musician Owen Parker commented: "Fairly sure a runner was sent to get Southgate a Fruit Shoot and some Smarties so he wouldn't cry in the ad break."
Many were quick to point out that it was not the first time Keane had tangled with Southgate. In 1995, the United midfielder was sent off in an FA Cup semi-final for stamping on his rival. A picture of the offence quickly went viral, and was even retweeted by Joey Barton.
Daily Telegraph sports writer Paul Hayward felt that Keane may have been "extending his grudge" against United. But Alex Spink of the Daily Mirror thought it was "refreshing to hear a sharp opinion from a football pundit on terrestrial TV".
On Radio 5 Live it was suggested that Keane, one of the few people not scared of Ferguson, now liked nothing more than "tweaking his tail". Though with his comments last night, he may finally have burned his bridges with his one-time employers.