Roy Keane considered retiring after being sent off for trying to punch Alan Shearer

Roy Keane almost considered retirement after being sent off for Manchester United in an ebullient Premier League clash against Newcastle in September 2001.

With United trailing 4-3 at St. James’ Park, a visibly frustrated Keane tried to provoke a reaction from Alan Shearer and deliberately hit him in the head while pretending to take a throw-in.

However, he only succeeded in getting himself booked by referee Steve Bennett, before losing his temper as the former England international goaded him. 


Roy Keane tried to punch Alan Shearer during a Premier League match in September 2001


Bennett swiftly upgraded the yellow card to a red as Keane threw a punch at Shearer but missed and ended up shoving the Newcastle number nine, while being restrained by David Beckham.

Recalling the incident in a recent interview, Keane acknowledged he had fallen into the Newcastle striker’s trap, but insisted his only regret was not landing his punch properly. 

‘I lost my temper, we were losing 4-3, I think, in the last minute,’ he said.

The Manchester United captain lost his temper after being goaded by the Newcastle striker

‘If you’re going to get sent off, the worst thing is, I pushed him. If you’re going to get sent off you might as well punch him properly because you’re going to get the same punishment.

‘You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. That’s what I was thinking afterwards. It was just a push. It was ridiculous.’

So annoyed was Keane by his actions and he considered retiring despite only turning 30 the previous month.

Keane considered retiring after the incident but Sir Alex Ferguson convinced him to carry on

‘I was fed up and annoyed with myself. Especially after the match. The gaffer [Sir Alex Ferguson never really had a go at me. I knew from his body language – “how much more, Roy?”

‘I saw him the next day and I said ‘I’ve had enough’ – and I meant it. […]  He said “you’ll miss it” and I was convinced I wouldn’t but I suppose deep, deep, very deep down of course I knew I would miss walking out at Old Trafford. 

‘I loved playing at Old Trafford and I loved playing for United.’

Keane later admitted he was disappointed with his actions and with how quickly he lost control

Shearer, who had scored what would turn to be the winner of the seven-goal thriller just minutes earlier, admitted he had little time for the United captain. 

‘I didn’t like him. I had loads of rucks with him and I wasn’t the only one,’ the former England international said on the Match of the Day podcast last month.

‘It was a throw-in in the far corner where I stopped him taking an early throw.

‘We were beating them at St. James’ and he wanted to take a quick throw-in and he’d been at me all game as he normally was. 

2️⃣0️⃣ years to the day….

Since @alanshearer & Roy Keane, err, had words 🗣

— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) September 15, 2021

The United captain had to be restrained by David Beckham, Gary Neville and Wes Brown

‘It was about three or four minutes before the end of the game. I can’t remember exactly what I said, I called him some sort of name.

‘He got the red card and I remember having a little smile and thought: “I’ve done you [like] a kipper here. I can’t believe you’ve fallen into that little trap”.’   

While United relinquished their Premier League crown to Arsenal at the end of the campaign, Keane got to lift another league title the following season and the FA Cup in 2004 before leaving Old Trafford mid-way the 2005-06 season.