Keane offered coaching role at United

 

Soccer: Alex Ferguson is to ask Manchester United's board to offer Ruud van Nistelrooy a new contract that will elevate him alongside Roy Keane and Juan Sebastian Veron as the club's best-paid players. Ferguson said he wanted van Nistelrooy to stay for "six more years at least", and it also emerged he had invited Roy Keane to join his coaching staff on an informal basis.

Ferguson will instruct his board to start drawing up a new deal for van Nistelrooy that recognises his development into the most prolific striker in Europe. Van Nistelrooy's tally of 44 goals last season was only two short of emulating Dennis Law's 39-year club record for scoring in a single season, and he will go into the new campaign with two records in sight.

If the Dutchman scores against Bolton in United's opening Premiership match, he will be their first player to score in nine consecutive league games and, beyond that, he can look towards Tom Phillipson's feat of scoring in 13 successive matches for Wolves in 1927.

"I wouldn't bet against him in any situation. He's improving all the time and I don't know when it will stop," said Ferguson. "He's only in his second season with us and I want him to stay for another six years at least."

Ferguson recalled how van Nistelrooy, who has three years of his current deal left and had been linked with Barcelona, had been the one player to report for training the day after United lifted the Premiership trophy with a win at Everton.

"He arrived in the morning and practised for an hour-and-a-half by himself, which tells you everything about him," he said.

"His form puts him alongside Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo in that collection of truly world-class players, and being recognised as the best will come as time goes on. When he joined I saw similarities with Marco van Basten, and we could be unveiling a statue of him one day."

Ferguson also admitted that United had approached Ajax about their Tunisian right back Hatem Trabelsi, worth a reputed £6 million.

Ferguson accelerated his interest in Trabelsi after injuries to Gary Neville and Wes Brown and the retirement of Laurent Blanc left him with only four recognised defenders - Phil Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea and Mikael Silvestre - for the start of the season.

"I'm concerned about the defence. We can't afford another injury, put it that way," said Ferguson.

One option is for Keane to play at centre half, something to which Ferguson alluded yesterday. The manager also believes Eric Djemba-Djemba, the £3 million recruit from Nantes who will make his debut in Wednesday's friendly with Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, can switch from midfield to right back.

With the long-term aim of grooming Keane for a permanent role in the club's backroom staff, Ferguson has offered his captain the opportunity to gain experience of working with the club's juniors.

"I'm going to be involved with some of the underage teams this season," said Keane, who has spent much of his summer on a coaching course. "It's been very interesting and it's made me appreciate more what it takes to be a good coach."

United were still negotiating with Chelsea yesterday for the transfer of Veron, despite the Argentinian's fine displays on their US tour which saw him collect the man of the match award in the 4-1 trouncing of Juventus after setting up goals for both van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes.

"I want him to stay, but things can change," said Ferguson.

The club plans to respond to Chelsea's offer by Wednesday, and United's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, in contrast to Ferguson's claims of ignorance about the proposed deal, has admitted the club are considering an offer.

"There has now been an official offer from Chelsea for Veron and it is under review," Kenyon said.

That offer is believed to be in the region of £15 million, substantially less than the £28.1 million United paid Lazio for him two years ago.

Chelsea hope they can lure Veron before Thursday's deadline for registering players for the Champions League.