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 Sunday, September 1, 2002 16:38 EST

Keane likely to be disciplined by FA

[Reuters]

LONDON -- Manchester United captain Roy Keane risks the wrath of the Football Association (FA) on two counts this week, with Saturday's red card now to be considered along with his controversial autobiography.

Keane's volatile temper got the better of him in the closing seconds of United's 1-1 draw with Sunderland when he elbowed former Ireland teammate Jason McAteer and was instantly sent off.

Though the blow was neither forceful nor particularly vicious, referee Uriah Rennie had no alternative but to show the Irish midfielder the ninth red card of his Old Trafford career.

FA chief executive Adam Crozier told reporters last week that disciplinary proceedings would be speeded up this season and Rennie's report, which will land on the desks of FA officials on Monday or Tuesday, should be dealt with swiftly.

However, the three-match ban that accompanies a straight red could well be only the start of a prolonged spell on the sidelines for Keane -- though it is an absence United may yet turn to their advantage.

The FA will deliver its verdict this week on whether Keane has brought the game into disrepute by comments in his book -- extracts of which have been published in newspapers -- that he deliberately set out to foul Manchester City's Alf Inge Haaland in a derby match in April 2001.

The FA's initial reaction in a statement that "we clearly would never expect any one individual to set out to physically hurt an opponent at any level of the game" does not give Keane grounds for optimism.

Keane himself already appears to be braced for the worst.

Hours before he struck out at McAteer, British newspapers carried quotes from him saying: "If I am to be charged, or whatever might happen, I will face those charges if and when they come.

"But I'm not losing any sleep."

Any FA punishment aside, Keane may also face legal action from Haaland and City over the knee-high tackle, which the Irishman said in the book was in revenge for a challenge by the Norwegian three seasons before.

If Keane is found to have brought the game into disrepute, he can expect a month or two on the sidelines including Saturday's red card.

It would rob United of their single most influential player, the beating heart of a midfield that creates the scoring chances for Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Though he could be replaced by Nicky Butt, who proved to be an excellent stand-in for England at the World Cup, or Paul Scholes, due back from injury in two weeks, Keane's absence would also be a major psychological blow to his team.

However, it would not all be gloom and doom for manager Alex Ferguson, who has been waiting for a window of opportunity to place his most valued player under the surgeon's knife.

Keane has been coping with a longstanding hip problem and speculation was rife last week that the operation was imminent.

Ferguson conceded that one was necessary, disputing only the timing.

"Roy is not having any sort of operation this week," Ferguson said. "Maybe there is a problem further down the line. I deal with the facts."

The facts that may emerge this week are that Keane suddenly finds he has plenty of time to have the operation.


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