Over six years after ending his international playing career with the Republic Of Ireland, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has bailed on his managerial stint at Sunderland. “What a waste of an education acquired at the feet of Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson,” grouses the Telegraph’s Henry Winter.

Keane appeared a manager for the 21st century, able to motivate players with airborne crockery and rousing oratory. In an era when the hunger of millionaire footballers is routinely questioned, when groundsmen repaint spaces in training-ground car parks to accommodate the Hummer generation, Keane was welcomed as the leader of the resistance. Play for the shirt. Deliver or be damned. From charisma to badges, Keane seemed perfectly qualified for his second career.

On the eve of the new season, freshly armed with his Pro-Licence from the Football Association course at Warwick University, Keane talked passionately about his commitment to management, about how he wanted to take on the big beasts of the managerial jungle. “Life’s about pitting your wits against Sir Alex Ferguson,” he observed.

So why leave now, Roy? His resignation on the eve of a visit to Ferguson’s lair, to a field of dreams he himself once bestrode with such authority, is a timing too poignant to ignore. Maybe Keane hated the idea of not being able to pit his wits properly against Ferguson. United’s second-string are too good for Sunderland’s first.

Maybe the thought of his misfiring Sunderland being torn to red-and-white pieces on his old stamping ground was too much. Stretford Enders still sing his name, still remind everyone that “there’s only one Kean-o” and he will always be revered at Old Trafford. Maybe he dreaded the reaction returning warriors loathe most: pity.