United pull plug on Keane's televised rant at team-mates

Welcome to the bizarre world of British football in 2005...

The decision was taken after consultation between United's chief executive, David Gill, and the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, after producers at MUTV, a satellite subscription channel renowned for toeing the party line, admitted to club officials that Keane had been ruthless in his analysis of individuals understood to include Alan Smith, Darren Fletcher, Kieran Richardson, John O'Shea and Liam Miller.

The criticism from Keane, which centred on the humiliating 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough last Saturday but is also understood to have touched on the club's failure to offer him a new contract, was judged so damaging that MUTV decided to remove the interview from their schedule.

The decision to drop the interview will infuriate Keane, currently injured with a broken metatarsal, and he will not easily be silenced. The club are also fearful that the interview, which was due to be broadcast at 5.30pm yesterday, will be leaked.

Despite their reputation for sensitivity to criticism, United have never attempted to censor their most outspoken player and the latest move suggests a change in attitude since the takeover by the Glazers. In the past, United have allowed Keane to criticise the club on MUTV ­ he has questioned the attitude of the younger players in the squad before and more recently asked awkward questions about why he had not been offered an extension to his contract.

Although the three Glazer brothers ­ Joel, Bryan and Avi ­ are directors of the club, they have left the day-to-day running of United to Gill. With the team's results suggesting that even qualifying for the Champions' League next season could be a struggle, the club are determined to limit any outward signs of unhappiness in the ranks.

After a takeover valued at £757m, and a debt of around £580m to service, the board would have had trouble explaining to the Glazers why they had allowed United's most popular player to launch an attack on the club on their own television station.

It was left to Ruud van Nistelrooy to assess the mood at United and the Dutch striker admitted that there was a "very negative feeling" after the defeat to Middlesbrough. He said: "You could talk for hours about what went wrong. It was a bad performance and we didn't do ourselves or the fans justice. We have to try and look at things in a realistic way. We have not conceded four in how many years? What we have to do is go out tomorrow [against Lille] and prove ourselves."

Edwin van der Sar accepted responsibility for Gaizka Mendieta's second-minute opener at Boro, which the 35-year-old admitted gave the home side the basis to inflict such a heavy defeat.

"The ball swirled a little but I should have saved it," said Van der Sar. "That is not a good situation to start with and it all started to go wrong from that goal.It hurts quite a lot."

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