But his response to Virgil van Dijk after Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Sunday was right on the money.
The Liverpool skipper did the usual thing whenever a heavily favored team ends up being forced into a defensive stalemate against a struggling club they should beat easily. “There was only one team trying to win the game. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. We want to win every game, especially a team like them,” van Dijk said after the match. “It’s frustrating as we were superior in all aspects and they were just hoping on the counter attack to hurt us. In the end they are buzzing with a point and we are disappointed with a point.”
The natural response would be to say something along the lines of: “If you guys were so good, then you should have been able to score — especially against a team that lost at home 3-0 to Bournemouth last weekend.”
The other response would be: “Hey, just because you guys had almost 70% possession doesn’t mean you really dominated the match — particularly when the two best scoring chances were, arguably, United’s.”
In fact, that’s pretty much what Erik ten Hag said, pointing out that either Alejandro Garnacho or Rasmus Højlund could have sealed the three points by burying makable chances.
Keano, however, took it a step further, calling van Dijk “arrogant” for his comments. “Man United are in a difficult place, like Liverpool were in a difficult place for many years. So maybe that bit of arrogance backfired on him today. That’s arrogance … you shouldn’t be disrespecting clubs like this,” Keane said on Sky Sports. “United were under huge pressure, they sat in and played to their strengths they had today. It wasn’t great to watch United today, but if you offered them a draw they would be delighted with it, and Liverpool disappointed.
“So never mind ‘Man United are buzzing’, Liverpool had opportunities and they didn’t take them. That’s their own fault and nothing to do with Manchester United, or the way Manchester United were set up of Manchester United injuries or whatever. I’ve come to Anfield many times with Manchester United and, let me tell you, they were very pleased with a draw. I didn’t like his message there … I think he is out of order.”
Keane is absolutely right. Context matters. Plus, it’s not Erik ten Hag’s job to set up his team the way Virgil van Dijk wants him to. United came into this match fresh off the aforementioned Bournemouth humiliation, as well as a dispiriting exit from Europe in midweek. The injury list keeps getting longer and the fixtures are about to pile up. Plus, United haven’t won at Anfield since “Welcome to Juanfield” during Louis van Gaal’s stint as manager.
So United needed to avoid a defeat, whether it be a narrow 1-0 nail-biter or a repeat of last year’s 7-0 annihilation (to say nothing of the 9-0 aggregate defeat during the 2021-22 season). Keeping a clean sheet and seeing excellent performances from under-fire players like Andre Onana and Man-of-the-Match Raphael Varane, as well as watching Kobbie Mainoo put in another good shift in midfield, were a nice bonus.
It wasn’t all good, of course. Sofyan Amrabat continues to look slow and Antony was anonymous, once again. Diogo Dalot also picked up a puzzling two yellow cards for dissent from a referee who seemed a bit too eager to stamp his authority on a match that was about to go into second-half stoppage time.
Nevertheless, if there were ever an example of a point earned instead of two-dropped, it was this match. Here’s hoping it leads to better things, because this season has been a nightmare.