Roy Keane and Micah Richards got into a heated debate about Cristiano Ronaldo as Manchester United were accused of showing disrespect towards one of football’s greatest ever players.
Passions ran high in the Sky Sports studio following United’s humbling at Manchester City with Red Devils legend Keane and ex-City defender Richards strongly disagreeing about the treatment of the Portuguese icon.
Ronaldo was once again benched with Erik ten Hag choosing to start Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Antony up front.
The 37-year-old was seen with his head in his hands as City raced to a 4-0 lead inside the first 44 minutes, eventually going on to win the derby 6-3.
Ten Hag used all five of his allotted substitutions at the Etihad Stadium but Ronaldo had no involvement in the match, something which Piers Morgan couldn’t believe.
Keane was also irked by Ronaldo not featuring at any point, although Richards challenged the Irishman on this in what ignited into a furious debate with a whole lot of interrupting.
Keane: The great players and the top players want to play week in, week out. Ronaldo did not come back to Manchester United to sit on the bench in a derby game.
Richards: But does his style of play suit the way they want to go?
Keane: – Oh Micah, here we go.
Richards: You come to the Etihad, you know Manchester City are going to have the majority of the ball –
Keane: They got hammered anyway!
Richards: I know.
Keane: You talk about pressing, pressing’s the new buzzword in football, pressing!
Richards: When he’s set up you’re thinking how we’re going to win this game.
Keane: I don’t care if a player’s not pressing if he’s going to get me 20/25 goals. He was the league’s leading scorer for Manchester United [last season]. I don’t think he was doing too much pressing then. Manchester United have lost three games this season already.
At this point host Kelly Cates suggested the rest of the Man United team weren’t as effective when Ronaldo was starting regularly last season.
A still fired-up Keane responded: “Well that’s their fault. That’s their fault, not Ronaldo’s. I’ve never had a problem playing with a striker who’s going to score 20/25 goals ever, I don’t care if they never ran back or if they even got hold of it.
“We had a torturous afternoon looking at Aston Villa because they couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net but we’re criticising Ronaldo because the ONLY thing he does is score goals!”
Richards: But there is more to the game… I agree with you on Ronaldo.
Keane: Not if it’s just attacking players. You’ve got other players who can do the –
Richards: I said last season Ronaldo should be playing, I agree with you. But I’m saying the way the manager wants to set up now, coming to the Etihad on the counter-attack –
Keane: And it worked (!) They’re 4-0 down at half time.
Richards: You know that Man City are going to out-pass you, outwork you –
Keane: With or without Ronaldo
Richards: So the manager probably thought before the game –
Keane: Well he was wrong, well he was wrong –
Richards: ‘I’m going to play high intensity players, and it didn’t work, I agree with you. But the results Man United have been getting against Liverpool, against Arsenal they’ve been sitting and playing on the counter-attack –
Keane: And that’s fine…
Richards: He’s [Ten Hag’s] played people who are going to press high and with intensity so he’s come into this game –
Keane: Man United haven’t pressed before, is this the new buzzword?
Richards: [Laughing] I’m not saying it’s a new buzzword –
Keane: You don’t have to press –
Richards: I’m saying this season playing that game on the counter-attack with pressing and playing –
Keane: You don’t have to press all the time.
Richards: I agree with you.
Keane: Who was the leading goalscorer for United last season?
Keane: All right, brilliant.
Things then calmed down after that in the studios but Keane warned that things won’t calm down at Old Trafford if Ten Hag continues to snub the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Keane added: “I think Man United are just showing disrespect to Ronaldo. I think he should have been let go before the transfer window.
“I think the manager is holding on to him – okay, you say you need options, but you don’t hold on to Ronaldo to sit on the bench. He’s one of the greatest players ever.
“He had options – this idea that he’d no options is rubbish, he did have options, four or five very good options.
“Okay, today the manager, he brought [Anthony] Martial on and he scored two, so yeah, that’s justified, but generally speaking, the bigger picture, he’s not going to play Ronaldo, we know that. He’s played in one or two European games.
“It’s just going to get uglier as the season goes on. Okay, Ronaldo’s motivated with the World Cup coming up, but if he’s sitting on the bench week in, week out, it’s not good, it’s just going to get ugly.
“I think United have shown nothing but disrespect to Ronaldo. They should have let him go when the opportunity came.
“As I said, he did have options to go, I know that for a fact, and holding on to him to sit on the bench I think is ridiculous for a player of his stature.
“The player deserves more than that.”