Roy Keane was yesterday relaxing and watching the cricket between the showers at Old Trafford as Mick McCarthy was disciplining him after going absent without leave from the Republic of Ireland squad.
The temperamental Manchester United midfielder has been dropped from Ireland's forthcoming tour of the United States after failing to turn up for McCarthy's testimonial in Dublin on Sunday and for tonight's friendly against Portugal at Lansdowne Road.
But McCarthy dismissed earlier reports that Keane had been suspended and stripped of the captaincy. "It is rubbish to suggest I have stripped Roy of the captaincy and banned him for six games," McCarthy said.
"He has never been captain apart from when he took over in that one match from Andy [Townsend] - so how can he be stripped of the captaincy?"
Keane had apparently been on holiday with his girlfriend in Capri, but returned to Manchester yesterday to watch the cricket rather than go to Dub- lin. Keane, who was sent off against Russia in March in McCarthy's first match in charge, finally contacted his manager late yesterday afternoon.
"I've had to make this decision now because we need to know where we stand for the summer," McCarthy said. "Now I want to see him and sort all this out. If he turns up in the next day or two and he is fit, he could still be involved in the two games we have against Croatia on Sunday and Holland in Rotterdam next Tuesday. I need him to show the desire to play for his country. If I see that I will deal with the situation again.
"I am not saying the door is still open to America for him because I've named my squad of 20 for that trip, and Alan Kernaghan is coming with us instead of Roy. But things can change. You can get knocks that make you change your plans.
"The main thing, though, is that I need players who want to break their necks to play for their country. I have got to see that commitment from Roy like I've seen it from other players. I have to pay respects to them in the decisions I make."
McCarthy has named two new caps for tonight's game - David Connolly, the 18-year-old Watford striker, and the Villa midfielder Gareth Farrelly, who steps up from the Under-21 squad.
Stuart Pearce yesterday broke off from his Euro 96 preparations to agree a new contract with Nottingham Forest. He has agreed a three-year deal which will take him up to the age of 37.
Fernando Couto, Parma's Portuguese defender who is being chased by Rangers, has expressed an interest in joining Manchester United this summer. "I love the idea of playing in the English Premier League. These days any professional would feel the same," he said. "Manchester United are the champion club and have got to be the best."
Liverpool have been spurned in an approach for Marseilles' Jean-Christophe Marquet. The French club said Liverpool had offered around pounds 1.3m for the 23-year-old utility player.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Portugal, Dublin, tonight): Given (Blackburn); Cunningham (Wimbledon), Kernaghan (Man City), Kenna (Blackburn), Fleming (Middlesbrough), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Townsend (Aston Villa, capt), Farrelly (Aston Villa), Phelan (Chelsea), Cascarino (Marseilles), Connolly (Watford).
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