Sir Alex Ferguson has ordered his captain Roy Keane to undergo surgery to cure his long-standing hip problem.

Keane has been suffering rfom a hip injury for several months but delayed surgery on it due to his desire to play in the World Cup finals. Ironically, a row with Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy on the eve of the tournament, saw Keane storm out of the Irish camp and play no part in the finals.

“The hip problem has been troubling Roy for quite some time,’ admitted Ferguson. ‘We have decided that now is the time to get the operation done.

“We hope we will have him back by December for the main part of the season.

“He played against Sunderland and played magnificently without the aid of an injection but, by the end of the match, he was feeling some pain.

“The time is right to get it done.”

Keane is expected to out for the next three months and will miss up to 18 Premier League matches as well as the six group games in the Champions League. However, with the tenacious midfielder receiving an automatic three-match ban for his disimissal against Sunderland at the weekend, not to mention the possibility of an extended ban if, as expected, he is charged with misconduct by the FA for remarks published in his recent autobiography, then Keane would be unavailable anyway.