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Essien: Roy Keane Is My Hero

Michael Essien“It is tedious to lose one of the best players in Europe but he has not left yet,” said Jean-Michel Aulus, the Lyon president. “We can still find a compromise so that he only leaves next year. Chelsea will have to show themselves to be very persuasive for us to let him leave. Manchester United want him just as much.”

It was the summer 2005 and Aulus was talking about Michael Essien. United have just finished third in the league, eighteen points behind Chelsea. Our points total that season would have been enough to win us the league back in 1997, but things were different now. We were out of our depth where Chelsea were concerned. They thrashed us at Old Trafford on the home game of the season, with the one goal put away from Ruud van Nistelrooy a poor consolation for the disappointment of seeing what our team had become.

Keane wasn’t getting any younger and his influence over the team was diminishing. He was no longer able to win us games single handedly. Kleberson, Fletcher and Djemba-Djemba were not a fraction of the player Roy Keane was, and the panic started to set in. Who can we realistically tempt to join us to replace Keane? We’d finished third and lost out on the FA Cup to Arsenal, after playing them off to park only for the whole game, just to lose out on penalties. The Glazers had just bought us and the worry over whether there was any money to spend was prevalent.

Michael Essien would have been a perfect replacement, however with Chelsea also interested, it looked as though we weren’t going to get our way. The blues forked out £24.5 million for the gritty midfielder and it was clear United would have lost out on a bidding war, if they’d chose to enter it. A few months later, Roy Keane left.

Our situation is somewhat improved now, with us boasting the midfield talents of Hargreaves, Anderson and Carrick in midfield instead of Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson and the like. The situation has changed at Chelsea as well, with the impressive central midfielders Lampard, Makelele, Essien, Ballack and Mikel not able to carry the weakened defence and clueless manager.

The player that could have replaced Roy Keane back in 2005 has today spoken out announcing he had a trial with us when he was a teenager, and that Keano is his hero. “I had always dreamed of playing in Europe and, as a boy, my team were Manchester United. When they offered me a one-week trial I just couldn’t believe it, I was so happy,” said Essien. “I remember being there and thinking ‘Wow, this is the biggest club in the world’. My biggest hero was Roy Keane. I just loved the way he used to play, his attitude and commitment. I still try to play like him now and maybe people compare us as I play a similar holding role in midfield as he used to. At the end of the trial, the club said they really liked me and wanted to sign me. But they could not sort out a work permit and the move never happened.”

Who would you prefer? Hargreaves or Essien?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. JamesGreece says:

    Maybe Essien is a better player (or at least less injury prone than Hargo) but I don’t like his extra-aggressive style. By the way, the same goes for Mikel, who sometimes appear to play dirty.

  2. Taehr says:

    Essien by miles.hargreaves is forever injured.whether its ribs,knee,calf… Its way too much.i think essien is better in attack too

  3. UnitedOnFire says:

    Hargreaves. Simple. Essien signed for Chelsea when he could have signed for us. Clearly money or something else meant he didn’t want to play for us enough. Hargreaves showed he wanted to play for us. And once the injury run is over, he’ll show what a good player he is.

    Put simply, if they don’t want to play for us, stuff ‘em.

  4. steam says:

    essien. im sorry to say this, but this guy is great – he is an all rounder very much in the mould of keano, and deadlier. he is also versatile and extremely commited. compared to mikel, im just glad we didnt manage to pick up the boy – he is not as highly rated in my book – and yes, i agree with some of you, i think he is sometimes overly aggressive and dirty? not sure

    as for essien, how i wish he had come over or we had made an effort to keep him when he was young. anyways, no use crying over spilt milk – cos our own midfield holds its own against any other in the BPL and europe – we have a very good blend of speed, movement and ball winning. really begins to remind me of the late 80′s and 90′s. robbo, guvnor, giggsy, keano – we are starting to play with commitment and understanding! seriously even though we are not as fluid as arsenal, we are truly more effective.

    that is why, even without essien, iwe are still good! SAF is great at making players work together and he has done something right this time – carrick and hargreaves can be used for different roles, different opponents along with anderson or scholes! brilliant mix!

    so no essien, sad but no worries! we cant have them all anyways

  5. denton davey says:

    ESSIEN, without a shadow of a doubt.

    Hargreaves, as has been noted, has a long list of injury issues . Also Owen just ;isn’t a driving force, abetting our attack. He’s really a “manchester terrier”, who harries opponents , furiously nipping at their heels, and breaking up the opposition’s attack.

    If there’s any player in the game today who bears a resemblance to Hargreaves then it’s my favourite, Gennaro Gattuso. A few years ago, the Dutch pit bull, Edgar Davids, was this same kind of player.

    However, comparing Essien with these guys is just an injustice – Essien brings much, much more to the game. Indeed, just imagine a midfield with Essien and either Scholes or Anderson !


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