ROY KEANE was never afraid to front up in times of adversity.
The Irishman may have been one of Manchester United’s greatest ever players but he never felt speaking to the media was beneath him.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the majority of the current crop — win or lose.
Only Ander Herrera fronted up to the TV cameras after Saturday’s shock loss to Huddersfield and said what we all knew — that this display was not good enough.
No one stopped to speak with the written press.
As long as you were polite and said, ‘Please, Roy’, Keane would always stop in a stadium’s mixed zone and answer the media’s questions.
He was not alone in doing that during United’s glory years.
Often he could be damning in his assessment.
He was never lavish in his praise either, for him the next challenge was always at the forefront of his mind even if a great victory had just been achieved.
One thing that made his often unnerving glare take on a darker hue, however, was if someone tried to suggest that despite a defeat, United had given everything.
“What?” Keane would reply, “that is the very least you expect.”
So you can only imagine how he would have felt if he had been on the John Smith’s Stadium pitch surrounded by team-mates who thought 90 minutes in second gear was enough to win the race.
It never has been and never will be — even for a team like United.
The reason Keane was able to lift so many trophies as United captain was not because they would always pick themselves up for the big occasions.
It was because they would pick themselves up for ANY occasion.
West Brom, Southampton and Sunderland were always taken on with the same vigour as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
They are by Jose Mourinho but were not by his players on Saturday.
The big worry for Mourinho will be that this performance has come nearly a year and a half into his reign.
Defeats early in his Old Trafford tenure were down to the Portuguese still unpicking the philosophy of Louis van Gaal that had reduced the club to a shadow of its former self.
What Mourinho has done since then which is so impressive is to restore the spirit that was at the core of Sir Alex Ferguson’s success.
So what on earth was going on against Huddersfield?
He was as much at a loss as the rest of us who watch United regularly.
From the start you could see his players were not up for this. It was sloppy, lazy and very costly.
It might be harsh to criticise a team that has just suffered its first defeat of the season, racking up ten wins and nine clean sheets in 13 games.
The problem is the bar has been raised to a new height.
Were it not for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, the view of this United side would be very different.
But performances are put in context by what the ‘noisy neighbours’ are doing.
Nobody right now can match City. But what United had been doing up to this point was keeping pace.
Winning games they were meant to win, staying in touch and waiting for someone to combat the free-flowing football of City. Mourinho, like Fergie, knows that if you just hang in there anything can happen.
But you cannot hang in there if you are losing 2-1 away to Huddersfield in the manner United did.
They needed more from £75million striker Romelu Lukaku, who was static, waiting for the game to come to him. Hiding behind a lack of service from others is not good enough.
Other United players deserved to be questioned, too.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a half-time sub, when did you last have a good game?
Victor Lindelof. Were Benfica so far ahead of the rest in Portugal that you were never tested?
Because his first big test since his £31m move to the Premier League saw him come up very short.
What on earth was he trying to do for the Terriers’ second goal?
Mourinho was spot on in his assessment of his team after the game.
Quick into the press conference, he was pulling no punches.
He rightly claimed it was Huddersfield who possessed all the ingredients he liked to see in his own teams.
Mourinho said: “They played like I like. They played with everything they have, like I like and like it has to be. They played with aggression, desire, motivation, sacrifice and we didn’t. The team that deserved to win won. Simple.”
Goals from Aaron Mooy in the 28th minute and Laurent Depoitre five minutes later stunned United — before Marcus Rashford’s late header offered them hope of a comeback.
But it was the desire in every single one of David Wagner’s Huddersfield players that was the deciding factor.
Their fans also deserve huge credit. You will struggle to find a better Premier League atmosphere this season than the one produced by 24,426 on Saturday.
You will also not witness a directors’ box like it.
Those in suits tend to be a little more reserved. Not here.
Chairman Dean Hoyle leaps around, chants, and celebrates with the best of them.
And there was plenty to celebrate. Not for United. They need to remember this and front up at every game.