Sir Alex Ferguson's pre-season plans were hit by two pieces of bad news yesterday even before his side touched down in the United States for their pre-season tour.
First, Cristiano Ronaldo has been selected for the Portuguese Olympic squad, ruling the teenager out of the first six games of United's season, including the two-legged Champions' League qualifier. And in addition, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suffered a recurrence of the knee problem which ruined last season for him. Instead of taking on Chelsea in the Premiership opener at Stamford Bridge on 15 August, Ronaldo will be facing Morocco, having already played in Portugal's opening game against Iraq three days earlier. United are powerless to do anything about his selection as the Olympics is a Fifa-registered competition and release of players is automatic.
Because a third-place match is also part of the tournament, should Portugal reach the last four, it would mean Ronaldo will not be available for United until the 11 September visit to Bolton, by which time he will also have played in two World Cup qualifiers. Ferguson will also be waiting anxiously for the results on the scan Solskjaer is due to have this week on the right knee which was operated on last September. Solskjaer had been expected to be part of the squad which flew to the United States, but was pulled out at the last minute. The big fear is that the knee may require more surgery.
Two close-season signings - Liam Miller, who is also injured, and Gabriel Heinze, who helped Argentina through to the final of Copa America with a 3-0 win over Colombia on Tuesday, have also not made the trip to the US.
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