Manchester United have still not managed to replace Roy Keane, 13 years after he left the club.
Former United teammate Alan Smith believes it’s “probably impossible” to replace Roy Keane although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is in desperate need of someone like the club’s greatest-ever captain.
Smith also dismissed suggestions that United were trying to get him to follow in Keane’s footsteps after he dropped back into midfield despite arriving at Old Trafford as a striker.
“Roy Keane is probably impossible to replace as a player and as a character, especially at Manchester United,” Smith told the Utd Podcast.
“I still don’t think it’s been done now, and it’s been crying out for someone like Roy Keane to be in the dressing room and on the field as Roy was.
“No-one could ever replicate it, so it was [about me] trying to do as good a job in a similar position. It wasn’t like, ‘you’re going to be a Roy Keane’. I could never do that job.”
Smith, who arrived from Leeds in the summer of 2004, played with Keane for just over a year but did develop into a more aggressive player learning from the Irishman.
In 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson told the BBC that Keane spotted “characteristics in Alan that he saw in himself as a young player, which could help Alan develop into a very good player in that position.”
Smith ended up leaving for Newcastle in 2007, while Keane had already been gone for two seasons after seeing out his career at Celtic.
And Smith believes it is disrespectful for so much of the praise of Keane to focus on his unmatched leadership qualities because the Republic of Ireland legend was as skilled as any central midfielder in Premier League history.
Smith continued: “You could ask any player that’s played with him or against him and I’d say 99 per cent of them would all have the same answer for you.
“For me, it’s not just a case of Roy being a leader. That’s so disrespectful to him as a footballer as well.
“You don’t play for Manchester United and captain them based on just being a leader. That’s such an unfair criticism of someone who’s probably been one of the Premier League’s greatest central midfield players.”