Keane ready to leave United for Celtic

Keane, 34, who is out injured for two months with a broken metatarsal bone in his left foot, revealed the news in a television interview, saying he would leave after 13 years at United when his current contract runs out in the summer.

He did not say explicitly that he would be joining Celtic, although that is clearly understood to be his preferred destination, and United are privately willing to fight to keep their captain. However, his acceptance that injuries are slowing him down suggests that Keane is now resigned to leaving.

He has admitted in the past, not least in his controversial autobiography, that joining Celtic would represent the fulfilment of a childhood dream and Keane said yesterday that a move away from United would allow him to prolong his career for another two seasons. He also added that he would be "surprised" if United were prepared to give him a new contract.

His current one-year deal, which runs out in July, is the second extension of the four-year contract he signed in December 1999 that earns him around £2.5 a year. He signed the second of two one-year deals in April this year and the expectation at United was that they would start negotiating a similar contract in the new year.

Keane said: "I would be surprised if United offered me a new deal. It's my gut feeling that if United did offer me a contract it would be around April and that will be too late. I would like to have something sorted out by January. I would like to play on for another year or two and it would be good experience for me to play at another club or in another country.

"When I say playing for another team, I can't see it being an English team. That would be too hard to stomach." Although Keane dismissed any prospect of a coaching role at United, the club hierarchy would be in favour of him going away to another club to gain experience and then returning to Old Trafford in a coaching capacity.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, is understood to support any move to keep the experience of Keane within the club, yet even if the player leaves next summer he would not be closing the door on a possible return in the future.

There is also a feeling within the club that the interview given by Keane - broadcast on the club's in-house MUTV channel - may have been a way of kick-starting negotiations on a new deal. It is a tactic that Keane has used in the past to bring United to the table, but this time the words the Irish international has chosen appear to be paving the way for his exit.

Keane said: "I would like to go into coaching and experiencing a different changing-room would help that. I will be 35 in the summer and there are good players coming through at United and the time would be right. Sometimes it's better to make a clean break. People have mentioned coaching at United but it doesn't appeal to me."

Keane's words will almost certainly cause United to explore the possibility of signing him to a new deal and the club have always enjoyed an excellent relationship with the player and his lawyer Michael Kennedy.

However, Keane will know that United chief executive David Gill has a policy of signing players over the age of 30 to one-year contracts that are heavily based on performance-related pay. Keane's age and his increasing susceptibility to injury would mean a steep cut in his basic pay.

United would be likely to offer him a deal that involved him playing a threshold of around 20 games. If he exceeded that his earnings would go up considerably. Phil Neville was on a similar incentive-based contract before he left for Everton this summer and Ryan Giggs is understood to be on the same kind of deal.

Even if United do lose Keane in the summer they will, despite his protests, not give up on bringing the player back in some capacity. Keane, who has been studying for his Uefa B licence coaching badge with Giggs and Gary Neville at the club, has always been touted as a future manager at United.

The midfielder broke his toe in an innocuous challenge with Luis Garcia in the goalless draw with Liverpool at Anfield on 18 September. In the past, he has overcome serious injury problems - including a ruptured cruciate ligament that ruled him out for an entire season. But in September 2002 he had a hip operation that limited the amount of games he has been able to play ever since.

Keane has been part of seven of Ferguson's eight Premiership-winning seasons - second only to Giggs - after he was signed from Nottingham Forest for £3.75m in July 1993, just one month after United's first league title in 26 years.

He famously walked out of the Republic of Ireland's 2002 World Cup campaign, only to resume his international career last season. The question of replacing Keane, who has 64 international caps, has long been regarded as the key to sustaining United as a force in the Premiership and Europe. Ferguson has tried players such as Juan Sebastian Veron and Eric Djemba Djemba in the position, as well as recently converting striker Alan Smith, but with limited success.

The new owners of the club, the Glazer family, will now be under increasing pressure to make funds available for a replacement. Michael Ballack of Bayern Munich, who will be available for free next summer, is an obvious candidate, as is the Saint Etienne midfielder Didier Zokora.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism