The United captain has told friends he cannot accept the current deal under any circumstances and will turn down the club's offer. The chief executive, Martin Edwards, will now look for a buyer at pounds 10m, with Internazionale heading the race. Ideally, they would set up a sale immediately.
Keane is prepared to wait and play a final season at United before trying his luck as a free agent next summer when he can get the money he wants and collect upwards of pounds 2m a year elsewhere.
However, the club will push for Keane to go now rather than lose millions on him in 10 months. There is even the possibility that United will pay Keane to leave out of the profits of a sale to hurry him into taking an early exit.
The Republic of Ireland player could collect as much as pounds 2m in a pay- off. Keane's transfer market value is at a peak just now. Every month that passes sees it drop dramatically, a position the plc board cannot accept.
Ferguson, who is known to be seething about the way the club have refused Keane's demands, said at the launch of his autobiography at Old Trafford yesterday that he hoped a deal would be wrapped up by the end of the week. "Roy will speak to us about his contract on Friday. He's given it a lot of thought and, one thing about him, he'll be honest about it."
Ferguson seemed optimistic that Keane will re-sign, adding: "He's been a great servant for us and I hope he'll continue to be a great servant for the next few years. Not many people leave this club out of choice. I know he loves the club."
Just in case Keane cannot resolve his differences, Ferguson sent his spies to check on Juventus's Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids last night. He would cost around pounds 10m.
United could get over the wages problem with Davids by paying Juventus more for him than he is worth and they, in turn, would give the player money to go.
Ferguson has looked into the possibility of signing brilliant Brazilian Rivaldo, but the package is enormous. The fee is not a major difficulty, but the wages are an insurmountable hurdle. United would have to pay Rivaldo a signing-on fee in excess of pounds 1m a year on top of pounds 1.5m a season wages to keep inside their pay scale. But the pay structure, laid down by Edwards and the plc board, has to be adhered to or there would be a wage spiral and possible dressing-room revolt.
Keane is expected to lead an unchanged team against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford tonight, Mark Bosnich having recovered from a knock received against Everton on Sunday. "There was some tiredness in the last 20 minutes of the Charity Shield but there was a freshness against Everton," added Ferguson.
Tottenham will be quizzed by the Premier League for showing a controversial video replay against strict rules in the 3-1 defeat of Newcastle on Monday night. Spurs fans were howling in anger and derision when they saw instant proof that the referee, Rob Harris, had missed a blatant penalty.
Newcastle's Alain Goma was shown to have cleared a corner with his arm just before half- time with the score 1-1. This contravenes League guidelines on what can be broadcast during a game and Spurs could be fined for ignoring them.
A Premier League spoke-sman confirmed last night: "We will speak to Spurs about this. Rules clearly state that no negative action bringing the official's decisions into question can be shown."Reuse content