Phil Bardsley has joined the long list of ex-Reds at Roy Keane’s Sunderland today, for a fee which could be worth £2 million. I know I’m not alone in feeling regretful over saying farewell to the Salford lad, who a couple of years ago looked to be the man to replace Gary Neville, in playing position as well Mancunian pride and passion on the field. Bardsley seemingly missed out on his chance when Ferguson opted to loan him out and keep the younger Danny Simpson with the first squad. Loan spells at Villa and Rangers showed him up as nothing special and it is not a surprise he’s been sold on.
It is also not a surprise that Sunderland is his destination. He joins Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Kieren Richardson, Liam Miller, Paul McShane and Danny Higginbottom as a former red at the club, as well as Johnny Evans, who is currently on loan from United. Van der Gouw is the goalkeeping coach, and Quinton Fortune training with the club in the hope of agreeing on a permanent deal. Keane is now only a handful of players short of making a starting XI of players who have worn our shirt.
When the most popular question of United forum arises, who is going to be the man to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as manager, Roy Keane’s name is always one of the first mentioned. He is a born winner who enjoyed thirteen years under the management of Fergie, eight of those as captain, so is deemed a natural replacement. The fans adore him, he knows how United works, and he is has the winning mentality.
Keane took charge of Sunderland after they’d lost their four opening games of the 2006-2007 season. He brought in six players on the final day of the August transfer window, including former United players Dwight Yorke and Liam Miller. He managed to change things dramatically at the club, quickly guiding them out of the relegation zone. As Sunderland rose up the table, Keane was awarded Championship Manager of the Month in February and March.
Keane took on board Ferguson’s no-nonsense attitude, which was shown publicly when he left behind three players who showed up late for the coach before Sunderland’s trip to Barnsley.
Come the end of the season, Sunderland were crowned Champions, with Keano being named Championship Manager of the Season. United fans started to get awfully giddy. Keano was proving himself as a good manager as well as a great player, but how would he get on in the Premiership?
Keane had a dream start to the Premiership as a manager, with his side securing an injury time win against Spurs, who at the time, had been tipped to knock Arsenal out of the top four. Since then, Sunderland have struggled. They are currently placed in the relegation zone, however it must be noted, only two points separates Sunderland from the team placed five spots ahead of them, so it is not a disastrous standing at this point.
With Keane insisting on signing players he is familiar with, who are either Irish or ex-United, on top of his less than spectacular start to the Premiership, it begs the question whether he is United quality?
It’s early days yet and I will neither back or dismiss him as the future United manager, but the signing of Bardsley confirms Keane’s preference to sign what he feels comfortable with, rather than taking a risk. Who would he be signing if he was the United manager? More Irish and Sunderland players? He’s going to have to up his game in the transfer market if he wants a look in at our post.
Are you sad to see Bardsley go? Does Keano have what it takes to be the future United manager?
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.