Ronaldo and Tevez fan the flames of Ferguson's fears

Key players fuel doubts over their futures as deflated homecoming closes season
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The Independent Online

Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday left Sir Alex Ferguson facing a second summer of uncertainty, to go with thoughts of what might have been in the Champions League final, after declaring that he did not want to discuss his future at Manchester United before taking his holiday.

"I don't want to talk about clubs, I want to rest [and] to go on holidays because I'm very tired," Ronaldo said after the crushing disappointment of United's defeat to Barcelona here on Wednesday. "I've played many games under a lot of pressure. The future... we'll see."

The prospect of Ronaldo leaving this summer receded last night as it emerged that Real Madrid may have beaten Chelsea to the £40m signature of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery, which would all but rule out a move for the United man to Spain. The Independent yesterday revealed Chelsea's £43m bid for the coveted French winger, but it would seem as if their move has now been gazumped.

Nevertheless, at the back of Ferguson's mind may be the way that Ronaldo, once away from Old Trafford, sent signals to Real throughout the last close season and the United manager may not appreciate the Portuguese forward's implication that he got his tactics wrong at the Stadio Olimpico.

First, Ferguson has to face the very real prospect of losing Carlos Tevez. Though comments made by the United chief executive, David Gill, here on Tuesday were more placatory to the Argentine striker, Gill stating that United felt the outstanding £25.5m sum for the outright purchase of Tevez to be the market rate, the player's representatives have since said they still consider his departure from Old Trafford to be inevitable.

They feel that Gill's interview on the subject represents "vindication" for their negotiating stance but the perceived injustice Tevez feels at missing out on starting in major games, which is said to be a "humiliation" for the player. Privately, United feel the balance of probabilities is leaning towards him leaving the club – possibly for Manchester City or Liverpool.

Tevez did not return to Manchester with his team-mates yesterday, though he does have to join the Argentina squad for the match with Colombia in Buenos Aires a week on Saturday and the visit to Ecuador four days later at high altitude of Quito.

Ferguson needs to build, rather than see his squad reduced, and the ease with which Michael Carrick and Anderson were bypassed in midfield, and the way Ryan Giggs was finally made to look like the 35-year-old he is, makes the significance of Owen Hargreaves' full recuperation from his two knee operations all the greater. Hargreaves looked in good physical shape when training with the squad here before the final but Ferguson may know more after the squad reassembles on 7 July.

United went ahead with the party they had arranged for after the final at the Boscolo Hotel on Wednesday and the players did not appear to have been in too low spirits. However, Ronaldo was brutally realistic about the defeat. "We, the players, didn't play well, the tactics was not good either... everything went wrong," he said.

Barcelona's 22-year-old centre-back Gerard Pique said the victory on Wednesday had "totally justified" his decision to leave Old Trafford for the Nou Camp last summer. "I enjoyed my time at United but I wanted more regular first-team football and the way this season has turned out has fully justified my decision to come back to Barcelona," he said. "We have set a new level in European football now that United and the other teams must try and reach. They have been really good for the last two years, they have won the Premier League three times in a row and have been in the Champions League final twice now – and that's a really difficult thing to do – but we have raised the bar now."

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