Keane raises United hopes with talk of delaying retirement

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's search for the new Roy Keane could be delayed for another year after the club captain gave the biggest hint yet that he could postpone his retirement scheduled for the end of next season and carry on playing for a 14th campaign at Old Trafford.

The 33-year-old midfielder signed a contract extension last year that will keep him at the club until the end of next season but he said yesterday that the injuries that have affected him in later years may not have taken such a serious toll on his fitness. Keane had a major operation on his hip in September 2002 and has been told that it could cause him problems later in life if he prolongs his career.

"If this time next year my body is holding up and my hip is OK, and the knee, and Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz and Micky Phelan probably feel I can still contribute to the team, then who knows?" Keane said. "The manager pulled me aside on the Saturday morning and said that he will be the one deciding when I'm going to be retiring.

"I couldn't see myself playing for another English team, or going down to the First or Second Division, no disrespect to the teams down there. I couldn't see it myself, but the manager Saturday morning made that point to me and who knows."

Keane, who was speaking at the launch of a fundraising campaign for the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, said: "I think we probably have the balance a bit better now this year with the manager. I spoke with him in pre-season. I think I am resting a lot more now and I think I am appreciating the rest a lot more.

"I think a lot of people, not just me, underestimate how much rest you need, especially as a footballer. But I have missed the odd game with United here and there and I am feeling the benefits of it. My knee and my hip feels really strong this year, whereas last year I was coming into the unknown."

Keane also said that yoga had helped him survive the Premiership season. "Myself, Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and David Bellion do it, and I think it has been a good help to us," he said. "I think there is a couple of types of yoga, there is a yoga where you sit and meditate. It's not that kind, it is the physically demanding stretching yoga, I think it has definitely helped me, it has helped Ryan and David. I think that has definitely been a benefit without a doubt."

Keane first suggested that his fitness might hold up to allow him to play beyond his 35th birthday in an MUTV interview in December, and his return to the subject yesterday suggested that he will seek talks with the United board this summer. Keane remains the biggest earner at the club on the playing staff and, in line with United's policy for players over the age of 30, would not be offered more than a year's deal.

Keane explained that if he moved to another club at the end of next season there would have to be a coaching role as part of the deal.

"I am not sure that would necessarily happen at United but, again, you try and keep all of your options open," he said.

"I am not silly enough to believe I could manage a Premiership club straight away, I would have thought I would have to go off and learn my trade, but again I do hope to be playing next year."

Keane's harsh views on the Football Association of Ireland have not changed since his public spat with Mick McCarthy, the former manager of the national side.

On the possibility of one day managing the Irish team, Keane added: "I couldn't possibly see myself at this moment in time working for the FAI, but stranger things have happened, I suppose.

"I suppose you can't change the past. It is 2005 now, that was 2002, I wouldn't change what happened in the past."