It had been claimed Ferguson and Keane had a furious altercation at United's training camp in Portugal three weeks ago after the Irishman objected to players' wives and children being invited on the trip. The implication was that Keane, who was officially omitted from the 23-man squad because of a hamstring injury, had actually been left out for disciplinary reasons.
Ferguson refused to comment on the speculation and club officials were saying nothing yesterday afternoon when United flew into China for the second leg of their four-match tour.
Instead, Keane's long-time adviser Michael Kennedy has responded on his client's behalf. And while there is no denial of an argument with Ferguson, the suggestion that it resulted in Keane being forced to stay at home was rejected.
"The allegation that Roy Keane was left out of the club tour of Asia because of a row with his manager is completely without foundation," Kennedy said. "He remained in Manchester in order to continue his treatment for a hamstring injury. Any disagreement he may have had with his manager is a private matter and will not be the subject of comment by him in the media."
Ferguson is due to attend a press conference today to promote tomorrow's encounter with Beijing Hyundai, when he is likely to be questioned about the issue further. It is unlikely the Scot will decide to enter into any public debate, given his previous reluctance to divulge information he deems to belong to the sanctity of the dressing-room.
Given the esteem in which he holds Keane, the suggestion that Ferguson might have prevented him being part of a tour which is such a vital part of United's pre-season programme seems unlikely. Throughout his 12-year Old Trafford career, the influential 33-year-old midfielder has been one of Ferguson's allies.
In recent times, the Scot has even adjusted United's tactics to take some of the pressure off his captain, while he has also suggested he could replace him as manager at some stage.
However, it is becoming apparent the pair did not share the same philosophy over United's trip to Portugal. In an effort to avoid the early-season stumble which wrecked last season's title challenge, Ferguson called his squad back a week earlier than usual, but with training on the Algarve restricted to half-day sessions, the United manager decided to let players' wives and children accompany his squad on the week-long trip.
It seems the move did not go down well with Keane, who famously stormed out of Ireland's World Cup preparations in Japan three years ago after voicing complaints over Mick McCarthy's training methods and the facilities available.
Ferguson's attention to detail is such that Keane is unlikely to have found any issue over the training complex itself. But what is likely to have annoyed him is attention being diverted away from preparations for the new season.
The notoriously single-minded midfielder felt the Old Trafford squad should have been concentrating their energies solely on training - and is thought to have told Ferguson so in a typically frank manner. Given the combustible nature of both characters, the response is likely to have been equally forthright, but it would be a major surprise if either allowed the row to rumble on.
Despite occasional disagreements, the pair have always been close and the United manager rarely misses a chance to remind the world how important Keane is to his plans.
It is understood Keane was troubled by a hamstring problem on the Portugal trip and his absence from the Far East squad was initially confirmed a week before departure.
Ferguson clouded that issue himself almost immediately by stating that there was still a chance Keane would be involved, although even at that point, it is thought the player knew he would definitely not be involved and would instead remain at home to work on his fitness ahead of the new season.Reuse content