Ronaldo jibe left Van Nistelrooy out in cold

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The chances of a rapprochement between Ruud van Nistelrooy and Manchester United appeared negligible last night as more details emerged of the circumstances which resulted in the Dutch international walking out of Old Trafford on Sunday three hours before kick off against Charlton, having been omitted from Sir Alex Ferguson's 16-man squad for that game.

Afterwards Ferguson explained his decision as resulting from "a couple of incidents in training that concerned me in terms of the spirit of the club". It now appears those incidents centred on Van Nistelrooy's relationship with the winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

The two have not got along for some time, with Van Nistelrooy accusing his team-mate of not releasing the ball quickly enough, a habit which was costing both the Dutchman (who was fearful of losing his World Cup place) and United generally.

In January there was a training ground bust-up which involved fisticuffs, and there was another incident last Saturday morning.

During a heated exchange Van Nistelrooy suggested that Ronaldo go and talk to "his dad" - a disparaging reference to Carlos Queiroz, Ronaldo's fellow Portuguese who is United's assistant manager.

A clearly upset Ronaldo replied that he did not have a dad, as his dad had died (Ronaldo's father died last September). Van Nistelrooy then turned up on Sunday expecting to play. On learning of his omission he said to Gary Neville: "Good luck for the game, I'm off."

With that, the 29-year-old striker took a taxi from the team hotel to Old Trafford, where he collected his car, headed to Manchester Airport and took the next available flight to his native Netherlands.

A disgruntled Van Nistelrooy was still in the Netherlands yesterday and when, or indeed if, he returns to Manchester is matter of serious doubt.

It also transpires that the match against Charlton on Sunday was not the only exclusion Van Nistelrooy had to bear. To further illustrate how far the Dutchman had fallen out of favour at Old Trafford, he discovered that he had not been invited to play in Roy Keane's testimonial against the Irishman's current club, Celtic.

So while Keane - the last revered figure to be pushed out of the club by Ferguson - will be seeking closure on a Manchester United career that lacked for only a fitting farewell when he returns to Old Trafford tonight, Van Nistelrooy may have already found it.

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