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Ronaldo sold to Real Madrid for £80m

Manchester United have accepted an £80million bid from Real Madrid for Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has long been a target for the Spanish giants, whose president Florentino Perez vowed earlier this week to do "everything possible" to take the 24-year-old to the Bernabeu.

A statement on www.manutd.com this morning, under the headline 'Reds accept £80m Ronaldo bid', read: "Manchester United have received a world-record, unconditional offer of £80million for Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid."

It continues: "At Cristiano's request - who has again expressed his desire to leave - and after discussion with the player's representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player.

"Matters are expected to be concluded by 30 June. The club will not comment until further notice."

The news is bound to be greeted with some scepticism by United fans who have repeatedly been told no deal had been agreed for the sale of FIFA's world player of the year in the face of regular statements from Spain the former Sporting Lisbon star was bound for the Bernabeu.

It was even suggested Ronaldo would be due a £20million compensation fee from Real if the deal did not go through by June 30, the date United now state themselves is when they expect matters to be concluded.

As it now seems a matter of when, rather than if a world record transfer will be completed, Sir Alex Ferguson might wish to explain why he has gone back on his famous comment in December last year that he would not "sell that mob a virus".

It is the first time for many years United would have allowed a player to leave they were not happy about losing.

Yet some supporters may be pleased that at least another drawn-out transfer saga, such as the one 12 months ago, is not played out in public.

And, at least the money could be reinvested in a squad that almost, but not quite proved good enough to win back-to-back Champions League trophies, in addition to a hat-trick of Premier League titles.

And, in reshaping a squad that looks almost certain to lose Carlos Tevez as well, Ferguson might be able to offer Wayne Rooney a more permanent central striking role and fulfil the promise he has shown on the international stage this season.

The name of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery is bound to crop up as a potential replacement, although the 27-year-old seems hugely overpriced at the £40m figure being bandied about in some quarters, with Wigan's Antonio Valencia also in the frame.

Ferguson will certainly be making plans already to ensure his new faces are on board before United head to Asia for their pre-season tour five weeks from today.

Amid the frenzy over Ronaldo's impending departure, it is bound to be asked whether the current debt hanging over United of almost £700m has played any part in the decision to accept Real's huge bid.

While Ferguson has always backed the Glazer family for the backing he has received, supporters will now be interested to see whether their manager is handed all the funds received from Spain, plus an annual transfer kitty said to be around £25m.

With Edwin van der Sar, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville all reaching the end of their careers, it promises to be a far more testing summer than Ferguson might have realised.

And, for all the petulance and pouting for which Ronaldo is so famed, filling the void created by the loss of his immense talent may prove difficult.