Despite reports that he is likely to miss the next three months of Manchester United's season, Roy Keane has been pencilled in to lead out the champions against Bayern Munich next Tuesday.
The United captain, who has not featured in their last six games through injury and suspension, aggravated a knee injury in the Republic of Ireland's 2-0 World Cup play-off first-leg victory over Iran in Dublin on Saturday. He did not travel to Tehran with Mick McCarthy's squad for tomorrow's return leg and reports suggested that he would require surgery. Instead, the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, yesterday admitted that Keane had not even undergone a preliminary scan and would be fit to lead the club when the second phase of the Champions' League resumes next week.
"I would be disappointed if he was not available against Bayern,'' said Ferguson. "The problem for Ireland was that the knee stiffened up after he played against Iran last Saturday. It is still stiff now and he probably wouldn't have been able to train until Thursday. It would have been a risk for them to take a player who wasn't 100 per cent fit in such an important game.''
Keane's imminent return is one of the few pieces of good news Ferguson has had to contend with recently, in the face of dressing-room unrest centred around Paul Scholes and Mickaël Silvestre, and a series of uninspiring domestic and European displays by United.
The last time that Keane suffered an extensive lay-off, in 1998, Manchester United surrendered a comfortable lead at the top of the Premiership to Arsenal, who went on to achieve a League and FA Cup double. There was more good news for United with Ryan Giggs' recovery from a hamstring injury.
Chelsea's Mario Melchiot has been banned for three European matches by Uefa, the European game's governing body, for kicking Hapoel Tel Aviv's Shimon Gershon off the ball during the Uefa Cup tie in Israel last month. Medhi Meniri, of Troyes, was also suspended for three matches after elbowing Leeds United's Mark Viduka during their Uefa Cup tie.
The former Aston Villa defender Stuart Gray, sacked as manager of Southampton last month, has returned to Villa as first-team coach.
The Lorient midfielder Ullrich Le Pen is in talks with Ipswich Town. The 27-year-old Frenchman is expected to complete a transfer worth £1.4m. Middlesbrough have offered a trial to the highly-rated 20-year-old Tromso striker Morten Gamst Pedersen.
Newcastle were saying nothing last night over the punishment meted out to Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, Andy Griffin and Carl Cort, who were sent home from a club training camp in Spain last week after they failed to attend a dinner for the club president, Sir John Hall.
Newcastle would not confirm whether the meeting had taken place, saying only that the matter is being dealt with internally and is now closed.
Crystal Palace will continue their attempt to prevent Steve Bruce walking out on the club in the High Court a week on Thursday. The Eagles' chairman, Simon Jordan, is seeking an injunction to force Bruce to serve nine months' notice before he can leave, with Birmingham poised to appoint him.
Talks over a possible players' strike will recommence later this week after a meeting between the Football Association's chief executive, Adam Crozier, his Premier League and Football League counterparts Richard Scudamore and David Burns, and the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, ended without resolution last night.Reuse content