Roy Keane was bound to face legal action from Alf Inge Haaland as soon as his “ill-advised” book was released.
That is the view of Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor after Haaland and Manchester City confirmed last night they intended to sue Keane over his horror tackle in April last year.
Manchester United have also been dragged into the dispute by being named in the potential law suit, which could drag on for 12 months.
Although 29-year-old Haaland completed the game following Keane’s instant dismissal by referee David Elleray, he has not finished a match since and is now facing the prospect of an early end to
his career after failing to recover from a knee injury in the other leg.
In the serialisation of his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Keane admitted he had set out to deliberately injure Haaland, as revenge for the Norwegian accusing him of feigning injury during a previous confrontation between the players in 1997.
On that occasion, Keane suffered cruciate ligament damage after catching Haaland with a bad tackle when he was still at former club Leeds.
Taylor immediately questioned the wisdom of the former Irish skipper going into print with such a statement and his worst fears were realised less than 24 hours before the start of a new Premier League campaign.
"It is obviously not good news but it is exactly what I thought would happen," said Taylor.
"I cannot believe he was advised to make such comments and by doing so, he immediately left himself vulnerable to an FA charge and this potential litigation.
"It is a very unfortunate situation because it has pitched player against player and club against club. With Manchester City being promoted as well, it is not particularly going to help a healthy rivalry in the city."
Although Keane caught Haaland’s right leg, the Norwegian is believed to be arguing the impact also exacerbated problems in his left, from which he has never recovered.
He is expected to claim for loss of future earnings, while City point to Haaland’s absence from the rest of their 2000-01 campaign, which eventually resulted in relegation.
Former Chelsea defender Paul Elliott and Bradford striker Gordon Watson have both launched similar actions in recent years, although with differing results.
Elliott was unsuccessful in his bid to sue Dean Saunders for damage sustained in a tackle from which he never recovered, while Watson pocketed a £500,000 pay-out after being felled by Kevin Gray during a West Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield.
Whatever the outcome, it is the last thing Keane and United needed at the end of a turbulent close season.
The Old Trafford captain made the front pages with his World Cup walk-out and subsequent spat with Irish boss Mick McCarthy which left the Cork-born player vowing never to play for his country again until there was a change in management.
Amid the confession over the Haaland incident, Keane also lambasted his club colleagues, accusing them of losing their hunger and desire last term.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has already backed Keane in the dispute, but having already had to cope with a shock Champions League qualifying defeat to Hungarian minnows Zalaegerszegi and a succession of injuries to Fabien Barthez, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown ahead of today’s opener with West Brom, it is hardly the ideal way to ensure the focus he admitted his side lacked at the start of the last campaign returns for this one.