Cristiano Ronaldo finally ended the summer-long saga about his future last night by pledging his immediate loyalties to Manchester United and taking full responsibility for the uncertainty which has plagued the club for three months.
Ronaldo said he – and not Real Madrid – had been at fault for the drawn out affair but that, following his conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson in Lisbon last month, he was convinced that his future belonged in Manchester. "Ferguson heard my reasons. I heard his and we reached an agreement that for the best of both parties I would stay," said Ronaldo, of their meeting. "Therefore I can confirm that next season I will play for Manchester United."
The 23-year-old has kept open the option of leaving United at the end of the coming season and by taking the blame has maintained the potential for cordial relations with the Spanish club.
"I want to say that I was responsible for all this controversy," Ronaldo said. "It wasn't their [Real's] fault because I was the one who revealed in public my will to play for Real Madrid. I am responsible for all the problems between the clubs. I knew that Real were interested in signing me and that they allegedly had made a very high bid. For a while my desire was for United to accept their offer. To say the opposite would be cheating people and my conscience."
A palpably relieved Sir Alex Ferguson later urged fans to welcome back the 23-year-old with open arms, despite his flirtation with Real and his outrageous claims last month that Sepp Blatter was right to described him as a "slave". Such a line of argument about a £120,000-a-week player was something United fans found impossible to agree with, but Ferguson said the player's personal life must be weighed up when his summer's conduct is being judged. He cited the death of the player's father, Dinis Aveiro, in September 2005.
"The boy has been through some troubled times in terms of the approaches from the people in Spain but once he knew my stance he then settled down," the manager said. "I think the fans have got to understand that a young boy can be tempted by all this money, particularly a young boy from Madeira.
"His father died when he was a young man and he's had to look after his mother, sister and brother. I think you can understand it."
Ferguson insisted on Wednesday that the player's future was secured for United and he clearly considers his own eventual involvement – he resisted the temptation to leave his holiday on the south of France to speak to the player at the European Championship – to have been crucial. "I flew to Portugal a few weeks ago and we cleared the air," he said.
The announcement by the player, through the Portuguese newspaper Publico, has come just in time for United. After seeing his consultant today in Amsterdam, where he underwent an operation on his right ankle a month ago, the player is expected back in Manchester tomorrow.
In marked contrast with the feelings Ferguson came to have for David Beckham, he clearly considers the Ronaldo matter closed and does not feel the need for further conversations. "Cristiano knows this more than anything: he's happy, he's always been happy here. He's never had a complaint about Manchester United," the United manager said. "I've had a great relationship with him, the players have a great relationship with him and I think what we can do now is put this down. It's finished. The boy's a Manchester United player."
Several United players, most notably Rio Ferdinand, had urged Ronaldo to resist a move to Real at the height of the drama and Ferguson indicated that his team-mates had been influential in dissuading him. "He has spoken to a few of the players," Ferguson said.
Ronaldo may fear the kind of negative reaction Emmanuel Adebayor received at the Emirates on Saturday, following ambiguity over his future, but he did what he could to pledge commitment. "Before there are rumours and speculation that I'm staying against my will, I want to clear something up; anyone who says or writes that is lying," he said. "I will play for United with all my heart and soul. I will fight and honour that shirt with all the commitment and dedication that I've always shown."
It was perhaps a reflection of the kind of summer Ronaldo has put United through that the parade of the Champions League trophy around Old Trafford, 77 days after the side overcame his own penalty miss to win it, was noticeably subdued before the 0-0 friendly draw against Juventus last night.
Gary Neville's absence from the teamsheet – his manager suggested he would recover from his latest muscle strain to make it for this match at the start of a season when his future career seems back in the balance – did not help either and Ferguson also confirmed that Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick would both miss the Community Shield. "It's a bit of a concern," he admitted. Nani is suffering from a calf strain but it is not thought to be serious.Reuse content