Erling’s father Alf-Inge Haaland was intentionally fouled by Roy Keane in a Manchester derby: “Catch this.”
The world filmography is replete with revenge titles. Almost all related to a murder, to a serious family injury suffered. Dramatic films, with the will to take revenge that wears out to the bottom, making you blind. Maybe he had seen too many movies, Roy Keane, author of the most famous and absurd eye for an eye in the history of football gone over. To the detriment of Alf-Inge Haaland. The other Haaland, single until his last years, when the son Erling – moved right to the Manchester City where his dad played – he has become the new messiah of football, of young people, of adults, of record breakers.
The 2000s have begun to understand this, the 2010s perhaps not. The truth is, when they came into being, City weren’t City. A new power, light years away from city rivals Manchester United, Red Devils against Citizens worried about making ends meet on sporting results. We’ll get to that later. In that scenario of the last years of the old millennium, the derby is being played that will change the life of Alf-Inge Haaland and the perception of Roy Keane, the last of the hooligans on the pitch, hammer and sickle together.
Hard and pure Irish, like those described in literature and cinema (yes, we inevitably mention the seventh art again), Keane is the emblem of Manchester United’s strength in midfield. There are the precise painters who draw football, but also the bouncers who keep non-payers away at Ferguson’s party.
1997/1998 was a highlight year for millions of football fans, filled with unforgettable events for better or for worse. The Iuliano-Ronaldo contact and France’s first World Cup are just two of hundreds of examples. It is also the season in which Haaland and Keane began the duel. A duel that will arise in the area, in the match between Manchester United and Leeds, until it moves into the Irishman’s mind, into his memories. In the legend of what a moment can be, a sad desire for revenge gone too far.
September 1997, Leeds, Elland Road. The English autumn has just begun, it’s a cool day, for the ninth round of the Premier League. Second half. The hosts took a surprise lead through Wetherall, Manchester United all forward to try and comeback. action on the band, Phil Neville for Irwin, who tries to crash for Keane. The Irishman was opposed by Wetherall himself and by Haaland, who managed to stop the opponent as soon as he entered the area with a decisive shot. Keane collapses, Haaland taken by the heat of the moment and by his Norwegian rock temperament, goes to say four to the Ferguson player, stopped by his own goalkeeper Martyn. It’s the beginning of the end.
Haaland believes Keane is acting after contact, she tells him to get up, not to pretend. The two pecked each other throughout the game, they crossed studs in the midfield circle. They won’t do it again for four years, a period in which the Manchester United player will be able to win the Champions League and the major English trophies. He will always lack something, that something. That affront immediately, the name of Haaland.
In September 1997, indeed, Keane will remedy the rupture of the ligaments, resulting in a farewell to the season. Not exactly a recent knockout, given that the 1971 class, citizen of Cork and not His Majesty, will be released on a stretcher, to then recover like a fury in the summer, preparing for a 98/99 that has never been so magical again. The Treble as protagonist, with Champions, Premier and FA Cup. A dream. With that nightmare ruining his nights.
Keane can’t forget Haaland, wait to confront him. Compared to what is narrated, in reality the two will compete in November 1998 and in November 2000, but the Manchester United player does not feel like taking revenge, or perhaps he is aware of having to miss too many games in case of a scene, or simply uses the common sense. Perhaps he is waiting for the most absurd moment.
- May 1998, Manchester United-Leeds: Haaland on the pitch, Roy Keane injured
- November 1998, Manchester United-Leeds: both on the pitch, no collision from red
- April 1999, Leeds-Manchester United: Keane on the pitch, Haaland with the national team
- August 1999, Manchester United-Leeds: Keane on the pitch, Haaland on the bench
- February 2000, Leeds-Manchester United: Keane on the pitch, Haaland on the bench
- November 2000, Manchester City-Manchester United: both on the pitch, no collision from red
April 2001, Manchester, Old Trafford. Derby, Haaland now plays for Citizens. Second half, spring still quite cold. A freezing shower for Haaland, an episode that will mark Keane’s life and in the long run will end the Norwegian player’s career. To define the Irishman’s straight leg intervention would be an understatement. No word on why Keane will have that moment. Maybe he thought about revenge and maybe not, but after getting the red card he will go and say something to his colleague on the ground in pain before leaving the field.
The following year, in his autobiography, the doubts are dispelled:
“I’d waited long enough. I hit him damn hard. The ball was there (I think). Slap this asshole. And don’t ever try to grin at me again that I’m faking an injury.”
Not an intervention intended to injure Haaland, but to hit him hard, specifically thought of as revenge, with media chaos, with statements of anger and complaints from the Norwegian player. An outspokenness that upsets English football towards the end of the hooligans tunnel, in a world of behaviors outside sportsmanship. The City midfielder will play one match, but the pain will be too strong. He will play three games the following year after months of hiatus, but by now his leg is gone. Diagnosis: career over. The punishment: five stop games and a 200,000 euro fine.
Years later Keane will try to specify. Yes, he wanted to hit Haaland hard. No, he didn’t want to be the one who broke his career. But in the long run that intervention caused the stop, even if not only. Revenge has worn Roy, as in the most classic of films, going further, making him a comic book villain.
Let’s leave the word to Keane:
“It hurt me that I almost bragged about deliberately hurting a player, hoping to sell a few more books. But I wanted to hit him, it pissed me off. I wanted to hurt him, I don’t regret it. But I don’t I wanted to injure him like this. It was action, it was football, and dog eat dog. I’ve faced him before, why would I have to wait years? For years I thought I’ll hit him, hit him? No. Was it in my mind? Sure. Like I thought I would hitting Shearer, Vieira, Batty, Lee. I’ve kicked a lot of players and I know the difference between injuring someone and injuring someone.”
Keane boasted that he hit Haaland hard in his book, but in interviews a few years later he pulled his leg back slightly (…), explaining himself better. Of course, the opponent was not really his friend of him. Or a colleague of his to be estimated. He defined it like this:
“Looking back now, I’m disappointed with the other Manchester City players. They didn’t come in to defend their team-mate. I know if anyone had done that to a United player, I would have been there. They probably thought he was an asshole too” .
Chosen by Goal