Keane hints that future with United is in doubt

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The Independent Football

Roy Keane said that he wanted to see out the remaining two years of his contract at Manchester United. However, in comments that will only fuel speculation over his future, he added: "You can't look too far ahead in football."

His reaction came amid signs that his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson has deteriorated over his decision to reverse his international retirement and play again for the Republic of Ireland following an absence of two years.

On Monday, Keane, 32, was forced to withdraw from Ireland's squad for today's friendly against Poland fearing he may aggravate a slight hamstring injury. Ireland's manager, Brian Kerr, revealed yesterday that he had been assured by Keane's United team-mate John O'Shea that he was "very disappointed" not to take part.

One of Ferguson's complaints is that he feels Keane should only play competitive matches, and Kerr restated his insistence that this was not something he was willing to agree to. "I don't know," he said when asked if he knew of Ferguson's anger. "I think Roy has made it clear to Alex that he needed to come back into the team. He can't just do that for the first match of World Cup qualification. I think the club understands that as well. But of course there are pressures, at every club there are pressures."

Maybe too much can be read into that, but Kerr insisted Keane was "genuinely" injured. "I don't know whether there has been any other suggestions and maybe with the lateness of it [his withdrawal] there may have been suggestions of some other reason. But there wasn't. I can assure you of that," he said. Keane took part in one training session in Dublin. "It was important for him and important for the squad and it went very well," Kerr said.

Keane, in his statement, insisted that he could "not be happier" at United despite the constant links with a move to Celtic. "It's unfortunate, but it is part of football that people are going to speculate," he said. "I think sometimes the more you comment on it the more is made of it.

"I think as a player, you can't be looking too far ahead. And in football, I think you should always expect the unexpected. I'm sitting here saying: 'I've got two years left on my contract'; many players have said that and before you know it, they're off. I try not to look too far ahead. You have to make these decisions, like the one about playing for Ireland. I made the decision and there are lots of reasons why, but I just feel it is the right one. And I believe I will be proved right. We'll see. You have to expect the unexpected."

Kenny Cunningham, the Irish captain, insisted that none of the players had a problem with Keane's return. "Throughout the footballing world there's a healthy respect for Roy Keane the footballer," he said. He did not, it could be noted, say Roy Keane the man. However, Cunningham added: "He has the respect of the other players in the squad and everyone realises he can play a pivotal role."

Keane's comeback will now be delayed until next month's friendly in Dublin against Romania after the season's end. Today's match against Poland, who are in England's World Cup qualifying group, is the first friendly away from home under Kerr, who said: "We need to get away from that comfort zone."

Yesterday he suffered a further blow to his weakened squad with the withdrawal of the Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane, who received a knock to the head against Arsenal on Sunday and has suffered dizzy spells.

It means only five from the expected starting line-up can be considered first choice with Andy O'Brien rested. However one new addition will be keenly watched - and not just because he is considered the long-term replacement for Roy Keane, both for club and country. Liam Miller, who joins United in July from Celtic, will be given his first start.

The 23-year-old is an exciting, if injury-plagued, prospect and Kerr is hopeful that he can fulfil his promise. "He's a determined little fella," he said of another of his prodigies.

If Miller can show that determination it may go some way to filling the void that has opened up over the absence, once more, of Roy Keane.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (probable 4-4-2): Given (Newcastle United); O'Shea (Manchester United), Cunningham (Birmingham City), Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Harte (Leeds United); S Reid (Blackburn Rovers), Kinsella (West Bromwich Albion), Miller (Celtic), A Reid (Nottingham Forest); Morrison (Birmingham City), Lee (Cardiff City).

POLAND (probable 4-4-2): Dudek (Liverpool); Zewlakow (Anderlecht); Glowacki (Wisla Krakow), Hajto (Schalke 04), Rzasa (Partizan Belgrade); Gorawski (Wisla Krakow), Szymkowiak (Wisla Krakow), Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk), Krzynowek (Nuremburg); Niedzielan (Nijmegen), Zurawski (Wisla Krakow).

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