Football: United issue a deadline to Keane

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MANCHESTER UNITED want their captain, Roy Keane, to sign his new contract by the end of the month. If he does not, they will try to sell him.

The club's chief executive, Martin Edwards, and the board have set a deadline of Friday 30 July for Keane to accept the new five-year deal that is worth pounds 28,000 a week and rising. United are pushing for an answer on the final offer from their midfield dynamo. If it is a "no" he will be replaced by Edgar Davids from Juventus.

Keane has been offered options on the payments, including shares in the club. However, he and his advisors would prefer straight cash and more than United are willing to pay him.

The Old Trafford club need to know Keane's decision quickly as the deadline for the Champions' League is a week later and they would need time to bring in the Dutchman.

There is the intriguing possibility of a swap deal taking Keane to Italy, although it is more likely that Davids would be signed independently. However, United will try to sell Keane after the 30 July deadline rather than wait for him to let his contract run out and leave for nothing next summer.

The irony is that Davids could come to United and earn more money than Keane is currently on. The Dutchman would pick up a hefty signing-on fee from either end plus his wages. While the salary on offer to Davids would be in the region of pounds 28,000 a week he could also collect up to and possibly over pounds 1m in extra fees from the move.

Meanwhile, the Football Association has told United fans that the club could yet play in next season's FA Cup. The FA's executive director, David Davies, offered some hope of that during a meeting at Lancaster Gate with representatives from various supporters' groups.

Davies told officials from the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, the Football Supporters Association and the National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs that they will consider any viable alternative.

The fans put some options to Davies, which he has promised to examine, which would enable United to play in the FA Cup and the World Team Championship. The two sides agreed to meet again in the middle of next month and to invite the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers' Association.

The IMUSA chairman, Andy Walsh, claimed that he was encouraged by Davies' attitude during the two-hour long meeting. "We remain hopeful and David Davies said the door was not closed," he said.

The FA shared Walsh's upbeat assessment of the meeting and spokesman Adrian Bevington stressed they have always been keen to hear the views of fans. Bevington claimed the FA has always been open to alternative suggestions. "If there is a solution, which must meet with Manchester United's approval, we will give it full consideration," he said. "We will continue to listen to any solutions that are brought to the table."

In Melbourne yesterday, Jesper Blomqvist and Nicky Butt were on target as United launched their pre-season tour of Australia and the Far East with a 2-0 win over the Australian national side.

Blomqvist struck first with a rasping volley in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Butt's effort after 76 minutes was every bit as good as he cracked home a half-volley from 25 yards. Apart from the goals, United rarely moved out of first gear on the poor surface of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Mark Bosnich made his first appearance since rejoining United.