Roy Keane was critical of Aston Villa and Jack Grealish following their performance against Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
Villa are second from bottom in the Premier League, one point from safety, and missed the chance to exit the relegation zone after playing out a goalless draw with the Blades.
It was the first English top-flight game to be staged in three months due to the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. As such, some of the players were inevitably rusty.
However, Keane felt Villa’s performance lacked intensity given their lowly league position and he was particularly critical of their captain, Grealish.
“They need a bit more intensity,” Keane said on Sky Sports coverage of Norwich City versus Southampton on Friday evening.
“And I know it’s the first game in three months and it’s going to be difficult for the players to get their sharpness back.
“I always felt it took me six, seven or eight games to get up to speed.
“But you have to try to create something. For Villa, the other night, I got the impression that (they felt), ‘listen, a draw is not the end of the world’.
“Every time I looked at Grealish, he was laughing. Listen, do you realise what is at stake here?
“And because the supporters weren’t there, maybe they got sucked into that, ‘maybe the result doesn’t matter’.
“Of course, it matters, your career depends on it.
You can watch Keane speak about Grealish below.
— villareport (@villareport) June 19, 2020
Grealish admitted following the game that it was strange to play in an empty stadium.
“We’re going to give it our all. It’s weird playing without the fans. I’m gutted because personally I love performing in front of them,” the midfielder said.
“But if they can just keep supporting us we will hopefully get the results and stay up. It takes some getting used to. It doesn’t feel like a competitive game but you try not to feel like that.”
"For an Ireland supporter, it’s hard not to imagine, what if?" https://t.co/UejpjksGrs
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) June 19, 2020
Keane and Grealish previously worked together. The Irishman was Villa’s assistant manager for a brief period in 2014 when Paul Lambert was the manager.
The former Manchester United captain did not express regret when Grealish chose to represent his native England ahead of the Republic of Ireland, where he had been an underage international.
“I didn’t cry myself to sleep when he made the decision,” Keane said in 2015 when he was Ireland assistant manager.
“I’ve been asked this question a number of times. We’ve been patient, Jack has already played for Ireland, we were hoping it would continue. That’s life, he had a massive decision to make, and we move on.
“I wouldn’t say I was relieved. But after today I am hoping I won’t have to keep answering questions about a player who has chosen to play for England.”