UTD Unscripted Will Keane reflects on career so far time at United

I will always remember my senior debut. It was New Year’s Eve in 2011, Blackburn at home, and I was chucked into that. I’d been on the bench, including at Aldershot when Mike made his debut, but we had a few injuries and Paul Pogba and I were on the bench from our age group. I think he was disappointed he wasn’t starting, to be fair, as Rafael playted central midfield which is not his usual position.

I am sure Paul was fancying himself to play but we were losing when I came on. I obviously used to go to all the games and watch it from the Family Stand, near the tunnel. When I came off the bench, it’s not like it was a cup game at a smaller ground. This was Old Trafford. I stood there looking across the pitch at eye level and focusing on the North Stand opposite, seeing it full.

Flipping heck.

It was so surreal. Wow. I’ve arrived now, there is nowhere else I want to be.

It was a bit of a blur, I even remember little things like the electrical advertising boards and stuff behind the pitch because there was just so much going on with the fans and all the advertising. It was such a mad experience.

So I came on and had a shot in the box that their giant centre-back Chris Samba blocked. I actually cleared an effort off their line by Phil Jones; I blocked it and stopped it going in their net. But you’re just fearless as a young lad bursting onto the scene. They’d said just go out and enjoy it, the stage is set so do your thing.

You cannot ask for a bigger confidence booster than that. Giving you the nod to go on in a Premier League game. When we were losing and needing a goal. That spoke volumes for me. A year or two before, Kiko Macheda had scored that winner against Aston Villa. I thought ‘wow, I could end up being the hero’.

But I wasn’t.

We ended up losing the game and Sir Alex was fuming afterwards, giving it the proper hairdryer. I can’t remember it being aimed at anyone individually, just generally, and, although I was so disappointed with the result, I was so chuffed to be involved. As a young lad, I was made up as it was something I’d worked for over so many years. To do it under Sir Alex while he was still there, someone I’d looked up to as the biggest legend at the club, made it extra special.

It was a shame we couldn’t make it a happy birthday for him, and I didn’t play again for the first team for a while after that. Obviously, the senior lads were back fit and then, at the end of the season, I had my first injury – my first ACL (anterior-cruciate ligament), while playing for England Under-18s.

It was so innocuous. Non-contact. A long ball over the top and I took it down, going through on goal. A defender was chasing behind me and I ran across him so he couldn’t come back to me but, as I was running, my knee just caved in.

I don’t know if there was a bit of fatigue. It was the last game of the season. Literally, the last 20 minutes of my season. I had played two games already for England and taken a whack on the head in the first half. I had a couple of stitches on the side of the pitch.

My parents always say, looking back, they wonder if I had a concussion and you never know how that affects you. I was fatigued anyway and it might have slightly altered my co-ordination. Obviously, now it’s a big talking point with more awareness of concussion protocols and maybe I would have been taken off as a precaution in the first half.

It’s just the game, isn’t it? It is just unfortunate.

I remember Sir Alex was quoted as saying I was going to be in the first-team squad and just hearing that was a great feeling. However, at the same time, I was so gutted. It was my first experience of a proper injury.

I didn’t know what an ACL was before I did it. I’d never heard of it.

Being the end of the season, I didn’t know how long I’d be out. I had scans and stuff and it was explained I was going to be out, typically, for nine to 12 months. I’d heard scenarios where lads could be back between six and nine months but everyone heals at different rates. I had a lads’ holiday booked, with Mike, Jesse Lingard, Luke Giverin, going abroad to Marbella. A first lads’ holiday and I had to miss it because I was on crutches and the knee was really swollen. I did have a family holiday in Barbados a couple of weeks later and had the op when I got back. It was then that I remember Sir Alex saying to me one day at the training ground in June: “Don’t even think about coming back until April the following year.”

I thought at the time, well you agree with him, but I’ll definitely be back before that. I didn’t know what the process entailed and the severity of it. I had a couple of complications and actually ended up being out for longer than that. It was 15 months.

I got back outside with no complications, after eight or nine months, but then the knee kept swelling up. There was a bit of debris chipping off my meniscus that needed trimming and that added another four or five months on.


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