Michael Keane: I had to leave Manchester United for Burnley to play

Former Manchester United defender Michael Keane has told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that he has no regrets in leaving Old Trafford for Burnley.

Keane, 22, had been at United since the age of 11 before leaving the club for a permanent move to Burnley in January following an impressive loan spell at Turf Moor.

The centre-back came through the United youth setup and signed professionally for the club in 2011 before winning the Reserve Player of the Year in 2012. He made his United debut in a League Cup tie against Aldershot Town in 2011, but only went on to make four further first-team appearances for the club.

Two of those games came under current coach Louis van Gaal during his first season in charge at United, but the Dutchman's 14-month tenure has seen 11 players either sold or loaned out, raising concerns over the opportunities afforded to young players at Old Trafford.

"I have no regrets about leaving United for Burnley," Keane told ESPN FC. "I could have hung around at United and got a chance as, around the time I left, a few centre-halves got injured and that meant I might have played then so that was a bit frustrating.

"But once I accepted it and started playing regularly in the Premier League with Burnley that is all I wanted to do rather than sit on the bench at United.

"Burnley are a great club and I feel playing regularly has helped me a lot and that I have improved a lot as a player during my time here."

Burnley suffered relegation last season in Keane's first year at the club, but the 22-year-old insists the whole squad are determined to get back to playing at English football's top table.

"Unfortunately we got relegated last season, but it was only by fine margins that the club got relegated as I don't think we were too far from staying up," he added. "Everyone had a taste of it last season in the Premier League and we are all desperate to get back there.

"Some players have moved on, but the club have invested in bringing in some top players and we are confident once everyone starts to gel we can be right up there.

"We still have a lot of the squad that won promotion to the Premier League so the players have the experience of what it takes to win promotion and we feel coming down from the Premier League we are one of the best teams in the Championship and expect to be challenging for promotion this year."

Playing in the Premier League will only enhance Keane's international aspirations, with the former England under-21 star admitting it is one his major ambitions to follow the likes of John Stones and Harry Kane and make the step up to the senior squad.

"The European Under-21 Championships in the summer was my last tournament with the U21s and I really enjoyed my two years playing for them," he said. "Some of my old teammates from the U21s are now regulars in the senior side and that is something I strive to do. Any young player wants to achieve playing for their country and I am no different."

Keane has the perfect role model as he tries to fulfil his ambitions for club and country, admitting he tries to mould his game on that of former Manchester United and England captain Rio Ferdinand.

"Rio is someone who I have always looked up and I try to mould myself on how he played the game," Keane said. "At United, Rio was outstanding helping me and some of the other young players and giving us all advice.

"I keep in contact with him now and he still gives me advice on how to play now which I appreciate. For me Rio is one of the best defenders this country has ever produced and there is no one better than him to get advice from."