The Irishman is ready to accept a contract worth around pounds 50,000 a week for the next four years, giving him almost twice as much as his best-paid team- mates. The club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has won an internal battle to persuade the board to break their pay structure and he now has the chance to move for leading foreign players.
Sir Alex has missed out in the past because the club's chairman, Martin Edwards, would not pay anyone over the odds. While Keane's re-signing takes United pay levels to a new scale of attraction in terms of bringing in players like Brazilian Rivaldo, it might also cause problems in the ranks.
David Beckham and Ryan Giggs might expect similar rises, while Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole could also be looking for a review of their deals as they all signed contracts within the old pay structure - which they were assured would remain until 2001.
Giggs is the closest to the exit door. He has one-and-a-half years to run on his deal and his agent, Harry Swales ,may open talks soon. Beckham could also be looking for an increase to match his status as one of the top players in the world. However his present deals runs until 2002.
United's attitude is that Keane is a special case. He could have left for nothing at the end of the season and cost even more money to replace. The bill for finding a suitable replacement could have been at least pounds 10m in transfer fees plus a further pounds 2m a year in signing-on fees and wages. The cost of keeping Keane is around pounds 10m.
The club captain will make a further pounds 1.5m from his testimonial year. This sum may be guaranteed in his contract, although the money will actually come from the fans. However, few of them will complain after lobbying loudly for Keane to stay.
Keane and the solicitor who represents him, Michael Kennedy, have negotiated strongly and cleverly. They turned down the previous "final offer" - around pounds 32,000 a week - in July. Keane will be delighted to stay despite hinting that United had short-changed him in the past and warning that they would have to change their attitude. He is settled in Manchester with his family, who are not keen to move. But ultimately it was all down to cash - which United have come up with.
Over at Maine Road, Joe Royle has no money for new signings despite BSkyB's purchase of a stake in the club. However, Manchester City's debt burden has been all but eliminated after yesterday's special meeting of the club's shareholders endorsed the BSkyB deal and a new rights issue.
The Sky deal alone will swell City's coffers by pounds 7.5m, rising to pounds 11m depending on the club's success. The rights issue could bring in another pounds 5m and the whole deal will virtually eliminate the pounds 1m annual interest charges.
"It's a historic day for Manchester City," the City chairman said. "The interest charges we have been paying have been crippling the club. This is a marvellous deal with BSkyB television and they have been very supportive. We wanted our shareholders to come into the situation. They can buy into the rights issue at 90p as opposed to the price of virtually pounds 1 which Sky will pay. It can only be good for the club's long-term future."
FOOTBALL'S LEADING EARNERS
11 Alessandro Del Piero
(Juventus) pounds 72,500
12 Steve McManaman
(Real Madrid) pounds 68,250
13 Patrick Kluivert
(Barcelona) pounds 60,500
14 Nicolas Anelka
(Real Madrid) pounds 58,500
15 Christian Vieri (Inter) pounds 58,500
16 Ronaldo (Inter) pounds 52,500
17 Juan Veron (Lazio) pounds 50,000
18 Steffen Effenberg
(Bayern Munich) pounds 50,000
19 Krassimir Balakov
(VfB Stuttgart) pounds 50,000
10 Roy Keane (Man Utd) pounds 50,000
Figures represent weekly wage
1 Roy Keane (Man Utd) pounds 50,000
2 Alan Shearer pounds 42,000
3 Duncan Ferguson
(both Newcastle) pounds 42,000
4 Robbie Fowler
(Liverpool) pounds 32,000
5 Didier Deschamps
(Chelsea) pounds 30,000
6 Paul Ince (Mboro) pounds 28,000
7 Paul Gascoigne
(Mboro) pounds 28,000
8 Dwight Yorke
(Man Utd) pounds 26,000
9 Mark Bosnich
(Man Utd) pounds 26,000
10 Marcel Desailly (Chelsea) pounds 25,000
Incomes are heavily dependent on how recently contracts were re- negotiated. David Beckham, for example, could expect to make the top 10 when his next contract is signed.