Football: Keane's knee injury robs United of key man in the middle

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The Independent Online
The champions of England will have to do without the man who makes their midfield tick for the rest of the season. Roy Keane's cruciate ligament injury is bad news for both Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland, as Rupert Metcalf reports.

They may be celebrating Wednesday's famous Champions' League victory over Juventus, but there was plenty of gloom at Old Trafford yesterday. Roy Keane, their inspirational captain, will have a cruciate ligament operation within the next month which will rule him out until at least the start of next season.

Keane was injured during last Saturday's game at Leeds - he hurt himself trying to tackle Alf-Inge Haland. A spokesman for the Old Trafford club said: "He had an exploratory operation on Monday, when a small piece of cartilage was removed, and it was discovered that he would also require a cruciate knee ligament operation.

"That will be performed in approximately four weeks, when the swelling has gone down. He will be out for the rest of the season." Keane will also miss the Republic of Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifier against Romania tomorrow week - and almost certainly the finals if the Irish qualify for France via the play-offs.

"I'm not even thinking about Roy now for the play-offs or the World Cup finals proper," Mick McCarthy, the Republic's manager, said. "We've still got to get to France and without Roy it will make it doubly harder for us in the play-offs - whoever we are drawn against." McCarthy has already lost the striker Niall Quinn with a similar injury.

In the same situation as Keane is his former Old Trafford team-mate, Lee Sharpe. Leeds United's record signing will not play again this season after damaging anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee in a pre-season friendly on 2 August.

The 26-year-old former England international, who joined Leeds from Manchester United for pounds 4m last summer, will undergo surgery on the knee next Wednesday. It had been initially hoped that the injury would clear up, but a specialist yesterday ruled that surgery was required.

Bolton Wanderers yesterday completed the club-record signing of the Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth for pounds 3.5m. The 28-year-old had also been linked with West Ham and Middlesbrough, but he chose to go to the Reebok Stadium - which could mean Bolton allowing Peter Beardsley to join his former England colleagues, Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan, at Fulham.

Tottenham have ended their interest in the Bolton midfielder Alan Thompson as their injury crisis finally shows signs of ending. Among those returning to fitness is the England forward Darren Anderton, who is back in training and is set to start his latest comeback in the reserves next week.

Steffen Iversen, the pounds 2.6m striker Francis bought from Rosenborg Trondheim last season, is out for another four weeks with the ankle he injured while playing, against Spurs' wishes, for Norway. He is the only senior forward still on the long-term injury list.

Sheffield Wednesday have completed the pounds 800,000 signing of the Norwegian international midfielder Petter Rudi from Molde. The 23-year-old has signed a three-and-a-half year contract at Hillsborough.