Roy Keane has been accused of a premeditated attack on Jason McAteer – the same offence for which he faces an FA charge.

The Manchester United captain was sent off for elbowing Sunderland midfielder McAteer towards the end of Saturday’s ill-tempered 1-1 draw between the teams.

One unnamed Sunderland player claimed Keane had threatened to hurt McAteer earlier in the game, which if true, could lead to accusations that the attack waspremeditated. Keane is already under investigation by the FA for the admission in his forthcooming autobiography that he deliberately set out to hurt Manchester City midfielder Alfie Inge Haaland.

Relations between the former Republic of Ireland colleagues have deteriorated since extracts from Keane’s book began appearing in a newspaper serialisation. McAteer was angered by Keane’s version of the events that led to his decision to quit the Irish squad on the eve of the World Cup finals.

On Saturday, the Sunderland midfielder caught Keane with a late tackle and the Manchester United skipper had to be restrained from retaliating by referee Uriah Rennie. Keane allegedly vowed to get even. And with the game drawing to a close, Keane clearly elbowed his opponent and was instantly dismissed by Rennie.

The Sunderland player said: ‘Roy was calling Jason everything under the sun. Jason just told him to put it in his next book but then Roy kept saying: ‘I’ll have you’. The elbow came out of nowhere. Jason went down and tried to get straight back up and gestured to the referee not to send him off but he had the card out straight away.’

McAteer tried to play down the incident, stating: ‘It was a full-blooded encounter with plenty of physical contact and everybody whosaw the game can make up their own mind about what happened.’

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who initially defended the behaviour of his captain, has subsequently accepted that the referee had little option but to dismiss Keane.

“Roy is the first United player to be sent off for this offence and I have said recently the use of the elbow is a growing problem in our game,’ admitted Ferguson.

‘We won’t appeal, the referee had no choice but to send him off. “The replay I was shown immediately after the match was misleading. When I saw the TV pictures from a different angle, I saw the referee had no choice.”

Keane, who will serve an automatic three-match ban andis expected to be hit by a club fiine of £150,000 for the dismissal, is expected to be charged with bringing the game into disrepute for the confession that he deliberately tried to injure Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland in an act of retribution last year.