Arsene Wenger has praised the efforts of Roy Keane, describing the Irishman as the key to Manchester United’s success over the last decade.

Keane announced earlier today that he would be leaving United with immediate effect.

“I did not always agree with his commitment but as a quality player, as an influence on the side and as a brain on the pitch he was very influential in the success of Manchester United,” Wenger said.

“He’s not the player he was but he would be the first to admit that.

“He was a world-class player and he’s still a top-level Premier League player but no central midfield player at 34 can be as good as he was at 24 or 26. You have to accept that.”

Former teammate David Beckham said Manchester United have lost “a great leader”.

“The fans will be upset because they loved him down there – and so did I when I played there,” he said.

“He was a great leader. The best thing about Roy Keane is that you knew where you stood with him.

“If you did something wrong he’d tell you but if you did it right then he’d also tell you – in his own way. Every player looks up to him for leadership.

“It is a big shock because I thought he’d stay there for a few more years, and go into coaching maybe, but he’s made his decision and everyone will respect his decision,” he said.

The players union, the PFA, also paid tribute to Keane’s achievements at United.

“He’s been a magnificent player for the club and has been as instrumental as any player in ensuring that United have been a leading club in the Premiership and have achieved so much in the last decade,” said deputy chief executive Mick McGuire.

“He is unique and he’s going to be very, very difficult to replace.”

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