Furious Ruud set to be sold after walking out on United

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson will discuss the future - and in all likelihood the sale - of Ruud Van Nistelrooy with the directors of Manchester United today after the £19m striker produced a furious response to his omission from the final game of the season against Charlton Athletic.

The Dutch international was informed over lunch at the team hotel yesterday that he had been left out of the squad by Ferguson, who later revealed his decision was taken in the interest of team spirit following several incidents behind the scenes this week. Van Nistelrooy immediately took a taxi to Old Trafford, where the United players' cars are left on a match day, and drove away almost three hours before kick-off to place further doubt over his long-term future at the club.

Van Nistelrooy has been repeatedly linked with a summer move from the club he joined from PSV Eindhoven in April 2000 since being left out of the starting line-up for the Carling Cup final. This ill-disciplined reaction, and the public condemnation from the United manager, suggest his departure will be up for discussion when Ferguson delivers his end-of-season report to the Old Trafford hierarchy today.

Ferguson had refused to exonerate the 29-year-old for his penalty miss against Middlesbrough on Monday, a draw that left United requiring yesterday's 4-0 victory over Charlton to guarantee automatic entry into next season's Champions' League. "He's missed several penalties, about half a dozen," the Scot said when asked by the club's in-house television station MUTV about Van Nistelrooy's usual accuracy. That night Ryan Giggs also gave an interview to MUTV that the striker is believed to have taken exception to and, in his programme notes for the Charlton game, Ferguson wrote; "If there is a non-trier, he deserves to be singled out." No names were mentioned in the programme, but no doubt Van Nistelrooy identified his target regardless.

Following the defeat of Charlton, Ferguson revealed: "There have been a couple of incidents this week which concerned me. This was such an important game and in that situation I felt Ruud should stay out. I'll be discussing this with the club directors."

Despite his outstanding contribution of 150 goals in 219 appearances for the United, the last of those coming in a 2-1 at Bolton on 1 April, Van Nistelrooy is not universally popular among his team-mates and may be viewed as an expendable commodity by Ferguson this summer. The striker has two years left on his contract and has not been approached about an extension, while interest in his predatory qualities throughout Europe - from Milan, Internazionale and yesterday Athletic Madrid - will allow United to recoup around half of their £19m outlay should they decide to sell.

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