Ferguson blasts Blatter 'slave' remark

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has criticised Sepp Blatter's claim that Manchester United are treating Cristiano Ronaldo like a slave.

The FIFA president caused outrage with his comments, likening Ronaldo - who only signed a five-year contract with United 12 months ago - to a serf in feudal times.

Pictures of the Portugal winger sunning himself in Los Angeles this week certainly did not fit that description, although Ronaldo did agree when quizzed about Blatter's comments.

However, Ferguson takes a different view.

And, as he seems increasingly likely to stave off Real Madrid's continued attempts to sign the 23-year-old, he chose to admonish Blatter ahead of his side's 2-1 pre-season friendly win over Portsmouth in Nigeria last night.

"It was an unfortunate statement from someone in such a position," Ferguson told a pre-match press conference.

"Slavery was abolished many years ago.

"These days footballers can earn five or six million pounds a year.

"I do not want to dignify this kind of statement with a response but when you consider the history of slavery, it was a very unfortunate statement."

Ronaldo is not due back in action until October following a recent ankle operation but could return to United's training HQ at Carrington at the end of next month to step up his recovery programme.

Meanwhile, United took the honours in the first of three meetings in a month with Portsmouth.

Chris Eagles and Carlos Tevez did the damage for the English and European champions in last night's friendly against the FA Cup winners.

Both sides will expect improvement when they meet again in the Community Shield on August 10 and, more importantly still, the Barclays Premier League two weeks after that.

Should the Premier League ever manage to force through their badly-received plan for a 39th game on tour, it is to be hoped they keep ticket prices at a reasonable level.

For, while Nigeria as a whole and Abuja in particular are viewed as teeming with United supporters, the national stadium was sparsely populated last night, lending a further air of unreality to an already surreal occasion.