Families in Football: Will and Michael Keane

Will and Michael Keane
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Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Families in Football’ series. Over the next few weeks, we take a look at siblings, cousins and even parents and children that have played the beautiful game. Some have played cup finals together while others have been on opposing sides. Today, we focus on twin brothers Will and Michael Keane.

Families in Football: Will and Michael Keane

Michael Keane

Centre-back Michael Keane came through the Manchester United academy but despite being named as their Reserves Player of the Year in 2012, he only managed five appearances for the senior side.

The defender spent time on loan with Championship clubs Leicester City, Derby County and Blackburn Rovers before joining newly-promoted Burnley. Initially arriving at Turf Moor on loan, the Clarets made the move permanent in January after an impressive start.

Despite suffering relegation with Burnley, Michael helped Sean Dyche’s team make an immediate return to the Premier League. Across three seasons, he turned out over 100 times for the Clarets and was named in the PFA Championship Team of Year in 2016.

His impressive displays earned the defender a move to Everton for an initial fee of £25 million. Michael has played over 150 times for the Toffees and has earned international recognition during his time at Goodison Park.

Despite featuring for the Republic of Ireland U17 and U19 teams, Michael switched allegiances and began playing for the England U19 team. He would make 16 appearances for the England U21s before making his senior debut in a friendly match against Germany. The defender has earned 12 caps for England, scoring once.

Will Keane

Like his twin brother, striker Will came through Manchester United’s academy. Also like his brother, game time at Old Trafford was limited with the forward managing just three senior appearances for the Red Devils.

Despite that, Keane had a prolific goalscoring record for the U18s, netting 13 goals in 26 appearances in the 2009/10 season, including all three goals in a 3–0 win at home to Manchester City. The following season, he scored 16 times from just 17 matches and finished as the team’s top scorer with 16 goals, which included eight in just six FA Youth Cup matches. He also added six more goals in ten outings for the reserves.

A tally of 14 in 22 for the reserves followed, plus four more from seven cup appearances. He also netted four in a 6–3 win away to Newcastle United to confirm Manchester United as winners of the Premier Reserve League North and a brace in a 2–0 victory over Manchester City in the final of the Manchester Senior Cup.

Will spent time on loan at Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers but failed to find the back of the net. That changed during a brief spell at Sheffield Wednesday when the striker netted three times from 13 Championship outings. He then joined Preston North End on a season-long loan but was recalled by Manchester United at the end of December.

He left Manchester United to join Hull City in the Premier League but missed over a year through injury. He stayed with the Tigers, despite their relegation, but only scored once in 26 appearances.

Will then moved to Ipswich Town on loan from the Tigers but his three goals in 11 Championship outings were unable to keep the Tractor Boys in the division. Despite that, he moved to Portman Road permanently but only added three in 23 League One appearances.

In 2020, Will returned to Wigan, who were now in League One, and the striker has rediscovered his scoring touch. The forward netted ten goals in 32 League One outings before adding *ten more this season.*

Unlike his brother, Will represented England from U16 to U20, winning the European U17 Championships in 2010. However, the striker switched allegiances to the Republic of Ireland in 2019 after talks with then Ipswich boss, and former Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy. He made his debut in a World Cup qualifier against Portugal in November 2021.

Games Played Together and Against

Will and Michael Keane have played together 34 times at various youth levels for Manchester United and England. The duo have lost just four times with Will scoring 24 times and Michael five. The pair have also played in two youth cup finals, winning both.

The fact that the brothers have often found themselves in various levels of the game means they haven’t been on the opposing side too often. That said, Will and Michael Keane have met three times, with one draw and one win each. The first time they met was at Ewood Park when Blackburn beat QPR 2-0. Next came when Will netted in a 2-0 win for Preston over Burnley before the brothers played out a 1-1 draw between the Clarets and Hull.

Interesting Facts

Both players started life with South Manchester Juniors before joining the Manchester United academy in 2004.

Michael Keane’s one and only start for the Red Devils came in a League Cup clash against MK Dons, which the League One side won 4-0.

On his England U19 debut, Michael kept a clean sheet against Slovenia as Will netted twice in a 5-0 victory. He also helped the Young Lions reach the semi-final of the European U19 Championships.

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