Michael Keane
Keane trained with England on Tuesday after being called in by Gareth Southgate. Getty


  • Burnley defender was called into the squad to replace injured Glen Johnson.
  • Keane has transformed into one of England's brightest since joining Burnley.

Burnley defender Michael Keane has been reunited with his former Manchester United teammates this week after being called into the England squad for World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia.

The 23-year-old centre-half was part of the United side which included Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ravel Morrison and his twin brother Will that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011. But like many before him, he was left with little choice to leave in pursuit of greater first-team football opportunities. After United's humiliating 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the third round of the League Cup in September 2014, he would be one of the eight players in the next few weeks to leave the club in the wake of that defeat.

"It was a bad night for all the players," Keane later recalled. "I do think if the result had been different, things might have turned out differently for some of the players, if not all of them."

Keane joined Burnley on an initial four month loan deal. While a first-team role didn't immediately beckon, he showed enough to convince The Clarets to make the signing permanent. While the 2014-15 season ended with Burnley returning to the Championship, his rise continued in the Championship and he was integral to a 23-game undefeated streak that catapulted Sean Dyche's side back into the top flight last term, also popping up with a memorable winner against Middlesbrough to help his side along the way.

He has continued to soar in the Premier League, turning in superb performances in the 2-0 win over Watford and against Arsenal, despite losing the latter game thanks to Laurent Koscielny's controversial late winner.

Michael Keane
Keane has continued to impress in the Premier League this season. Getty

Keane's decision to cut ties with United provided almost instant vindication. After he left, he saw Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett given chances in the United first-team during a particularly awful run of injuries among Louis van Gaal's ranks. In December 2014, he admitted he was "gutted" it wasn't him moving into the United first-team while his old teammates did. But rather than focusing on what could have been, Keane threw himself into Burnley. Before long, his outlook had become very different.

"When I was at United I was disappointed not to get too many chances or many games but coming here was the best decision I ever made," he recently said. "I have grown as a player and playing week in week out helps you improve so much."

Now, he not only presents a strong case for being the most in-form of all England's available options in defence, but he is already becoming one of the most sought after centre-halves in the Premier League.

His mature performances on the pitch have been mirrored by his mature attitude off it however, recently brushing off transfer speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea and having kept his cool when Leicester City attempted to prise him away from Turf Moor in the summer.

Keane could line-up alongside his friend and former teammate Jesse Lingard in the first two games of Gareth Southgate's reign. Looking back on that 2011 success, he recently said: "They were good times, coming through the academy together, but it seems a lifetime ago now and we've done a lot since."

Honed at Turf Moor rather than Old Trafford, Keane's evolution is set to continue with his country and perhaps inevitably, a club chasing Champions League football.