In His Prime: Roy Keane 1999/2000
We can all name the United greats, but when were they at their peak? In a new series for United Review we select the seasons when they truly excelled - featuring the one and only 'Keano'.
Picture the Irishman at his absolute best and the 1999/2000 vintage is as close as you’ll get to that image of perfection. His goal return was a season’s best, and only in 1993/94 and 1998/99 did he play more often, but those statistics alone don’t do justice to the finest of his 13 seasons in red.
Much is made of his contribution in the history-making, triple trophy campaign referred to simply as ‘The Treble’. Indeed, his inspirational display against the mighty Juventus in the Delle Alpi remains rightly regarded as his magnum opus.
Yet rather than his appetite for glory having been sated by the finest haul of silverware ever landed by an English club in one season, his hunger grew.
“Some live off what they’ve done in the past,” Keane told the official magazine.
“That’s not my way and never will be.”
In the campaign after the Treble, Keano – or ‘Keanie’ to his team-mates – was true to his word. He was in his absolute pomp: captain, warrior and the finest midfielder in the country, bar none. What made this season better than his others?
At the age of 29 he retained the physicality that had made him such a box-to-box powerhouse.
Except now it came with the nous of a player who’d won the lot across 200 United games. His passing was exemplary, his eye for goal never sharper and his force of will dragged the team through those inevitable games when they collectively weren’t ‘at it’. He hit new heights of excellence almost weekly, and all against the backdrop of a contract negotiation that threatened his possible departure.
Two goals against old foes Arsenal put the cap on a commanding display against nemesis Patrick Vieira, sealing a pulsating 2-1 win at Highbury. He scored the only goal against Palmeiras in the Intercontinental Cup final in Tokyo.
He was outstanding on the evening when news of his renewed contract was announced to the Old Trafford crowd a few minutes into a 3-1 home win against Fiorentina, in which he scored. Between times he was rarely less than majestic.
Occasionally he reminded us he was human, such as the night he scored an own goal in our Champions League exit to Real Madrid.
But even this glitch was not enough to deny him the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year awards – the latter being won with a then record 53 per cent of journalists’ votes.
He was appreciated by his own fans, too, becoming the first player to win the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in consecutive years.
It was lifting the Premier League trophy for a fifth time that meant most to him, proving just reward for a season in which he’d contributed more than anyone.