Ronaldo red card leads to training spat with angry team-mate

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The Independent Football

Cristiano Ronaldo had a weekend to forget after his sending off against Manchester City in a calamitous defeat for Manchester United on Saturday but this week would appear to have got off to an even worse start for the Portuguese winger yesterday when he was involved in a stand-off with his team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy at training.

Although the two players are understood not to have traded blows, they came close after an exchange based on the events of the previous eight days which have seen United fail to beat Burton Albion in the FA Cup third round and then lose 3-1 to City in a humiliating derby defeat that has plunged their Premiership season deeper into gloom.

Van Nistelrooy's frustration with Ronaldo, who was sent off for a needless lunge at Andy Cole on Saturday, boiled over at training and the 20-year-old winger is understood to have reacted badly to the provocation.

The replay against Burton tomorrow, and the Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Blackburn Rovers on 25 January, now take on a greater significance given that United have fallen 16 points behind Chelsea in the Premiership title race.

They face Rafael Benitez's resurgent Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday where a defeat will mean losing their second place in the Premiership to the Merseyside team.

There has been a suggestion that Ronaldo would be given time off to return to Portugal this week but he is due to be included in the squad to face Burton Albion who he came on against as a substitute in the goalless draw on 8 January.

United have appealed against the red card that he was given by the referee Steve Bennett and the case will be heard by a Premier League disciplinary commission today.

In his third season at United, Ronaldo has been a source of frustration to his team-mates at times for his famous reluctance to release the ball and he is known to have clashed with Alan Smith in the past.

Ronaldo's foul on Cole was a response to a tackle on him moments earlier by Stephen Jordan that went unpunished and Sir Alex Ferguson could also now face a Football Association charge for comments he made about Bennett after the match.