Everton’s Phil Jagielka lifts the lid on his exchange of words with Michael Keane

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Michael Keane could have been back in the red of Manchester United for Sunday’s game at Old Trafford but his neighbour Phil Jagielka is delighted he chose to join Everton instead – even if the two men are fighting each other for the same royal blue jersey.

Keane, who declined the chance to rejoin his former club, has played in all nine of Everton’s matches so far this season but he and Jagielka were chosen as a centre-back pairing for the first time in their 3-0 defeat to Atalanta on Thursday evening.

The duo had lined up together from the start against Ruzomberok (away), Stoke City, Manchester City and Chelsea but on each of those occasions Ashley Williams was also in the side.

Given that Keane is 24 – the same age as Jagielka when he first arrived at Goodison and the pair spent their respective formative years in nearby Altrincham and Cheadle – the captain can see echoes of himself in the younger man.

Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka watch The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale with Leighton Baines, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry

And in a similar vein to the way Dixie Dean greeted another big money recruit from Burnley to Everton Tommy Lawton eight decades earlier, with English football’s record goalscorer telling the teenager: “I know you’ve come here to take my place”, Jagielka has been magnanimous over Keane’s acquisition.

One of the most symbolic moments of the Blues summer spree in the transfer market came when Keane pulled up at the entrance gate of the club’s Finch Farm training complex and exchanged pleasantries with his soon-to-be skipper who just happened to be on his way out.

Recalling the moment, Jagielka told the ECHO: “It was a friendly welcome, just a laugh and a joke.

“I’d seen Michael in the summer, he lives around the corner and we’re members at the same golf course.

“I knew he was on the move but wasn’t sure whether we’d get him or not as there were other clubs interested.

“He was in the back of the car and wound down the window.

“Michael is a really nice lad and I’m glad that he chose to come to us.”

Michael Keane of Everton celebrates scoring his side's opening goal during the Europa League play-off against Hajduk Split
Michael Keane of Everton celebrates scoring his side’s opening goal during the Europa League play-off against Hajduk Split

Keane revealed that his decision to come to Everton was based on a desire to play regularly and he will no doubt be looking to add to his two England caps to date.

Following his own move to Goodison a decade ago, Jagielka went on to play 40 times for his country and he has backed Keane to also follow suit.

He said: “He has made us stronger and the fact that he plays in my position is just one of those things but he’s competing for his place and I’m competing for mine – it’s no different to any other club in the Premier League.

“Hopefully Michael has a fantastic career. He’s at that age where he’s young enough but has already had experience of playing at the top level.

“I’m sure he’ll get his international career up and running properly in the next season or two and has got a big future ahead of him.”

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