Fans united in support of captain Keane's fury

"Keane is absolutely correct. This team is just lousy. It's a disgrace to Man Utd. Sign someone, Sir Alex," pleaded Brian Smith.

"Keano says that there are five players who are not good enough to play for United but... you would still expect them to carry the 'lesser' players," was Brad Egan's contribution, while Paul Mercer added: "If Keane saw this the air would be blue."

The United megastore offered some short-term therapy yesterday for the disillusioned faithful. A new line in 1968 Champions' Cup final shirts is now on sale and - in the absence of the Keane tape - the old video screened at lunchtime captured a fresh-faced Alex Ferguson celebrating a new signing, one Eric Cantona.

Outside, in torrential rain which reflected the general mood, Abdul Sayed was among the fans coming around to the view that Keane's outburst was not so intemperate after all.

"I'm glad he said it because United should be playing with more spirit than this," said Mr Sayed, who had travelled from west Yorkshire. "After all they did for [Rio] Ferdinand - sticking by him after the drug ban, giving him the contract he wanted - he owes them. He should be offering us more than he is."

In the legendary Lou Macari chip shop, Letitia Andrews was still digesting Sir Alex's claims that the pitch in Lille might have contributed to United's demise. "Keane was definitely right all along. There's too much control of information in the game. What he said about the players needed saying. I just wish he's talked about Sir Alex as well. The formation's all wrong, isn't it."

The Manchester Evening News seemed to be adopting the Keane line, too. "Fergie's Flops" screamed the front page - a headline moderated later in the day to a more diplomatic "Meltdown". Barely 10 per cent of participants in the paper's debate on "Keanogate" considered Keane to be in the wrong. "It's funny. Everything Keane says seems to be the truth yet people slate him for saying it," one said.

The alternative view runs that Keane should not wash his dirty linen in public. "The comments were right but he should have made them behind closed doors," said Martin Fiddling, a Lincolnshire fan outside the ground.

Shareholders United declined to comment on the Keane tape, out of deference to the management, though Mark Longden, the chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, said that "pulling the [Keane] interview" had created "more focus" on his comments than any broadcast would have done. "Roy is saying what a lot of people on the terraces think," he concluded. "You have to respect his opinion."

What should Fergie do? Five experts have their say

George Graham

Ex-Manchester United player, former manager of Arsenal, Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur

I was not surprised. I think it has been coming for a while. I saw them at the end of last season and I couldn't understand their formation.

Alex has got to get back to the old Alex. He's got to take charge and get back to playing 4-4-1-1. All their success was based on that. It gives them more width. Now there is virtually no width in the team. Kanchelskis and Giggs, then Beckham and Giggs, would give great service to the strikers. They were the top scorers every year. Last season was their worst in the Premiership for goals, just 58.

Alex has got to get back to being strong. He and the team have got to get back to basics. Reading between the lines it seems Carlos Queiroz has a lot of influence but Alex is the most successful manager in the history of the domestic game.

The Keane thing would not have happened five years ago, when Alex was taking charge of every detail. Alex would have voiced it, not the captain.

Eamon Dunphy

Ex-United and Republic of Ireland player, ghost writer of Keane's autobiography

If United are to rescue their season, which means reaching the knock-out stage of the Champions' League, Keane still has a vital part to play.

The club are in long-term crisis. Short term, they need him badly. Relations with Ferguson may be strained, but there's deep mutual respect. What he said was undiplomatic but brave. He could've fudged or lied about some of the younger players' values and lack of hunger; instead his analysis was typically forthright. Pious critics will condemn him, but he spoke out of love for United - and he's in tune with the fans on the state they're in.

Craig Brown

Former Scotland manager and friend of Sir Alex Ferguson

Whatever Roy Keane said on MUTV, I can assure you he'll have said the same directly to his team-mates in private, all the time. Alex knows how to handle difficult situations: he's from Glasgow. I expect him to say nothing, and tell Keane to say nothing more.

There is terrific mutual respect. They're driven by wanting the best from United. When Beckham got sent off against Necaxa in the World Club Championship in 2000, the press treated it like the end of the world. Alex said nothing, told Beckham to say nothing. Things blow over.

Lee Sharpe

Former Manchester United and England midfielder. Played under Ferguson and alongside Keane

For Keanie to be critical of team-mates is typical, shooting from the hip, never pulling punches. But I'm surprised he did it for public consumption, even though team-mates are not playing to the standards he's used to.

Keanie plays for a manager who never slags off his players in public. That's policy. And when you're in times of trouble, or struggling like United, you need everyone to pull together. Alex Ferguson always said: "It's us against the world, and we'll pull out of it together."

That's why I have doubts about what this means for Keanie's future.

Wilf McGuinness

Broadcaster, former 'Busby Babe' and ex-United manager

United were due a hiccup and that's what I'd call the current run. I've every confidence in Sir Alex to turn things round. But I do think he needs to strengthen the squad in January, especially in midfield.

Keane and Scholes have been brilliant together, but they can't go on forever. Things will improve when they get experienced players fit, like Giggs and Neville, who's a big influence on Ronaldo. They need Keane back, too. What Roy is supposed to have said shouldn't stop him playing. He has always spoken his mind.

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