Manchester United are well on course to clinch the Premier League title on Saturday though Carlos Tevez's astonishing protest in front of the directors' box yesterday and Cristiano Ronaldo's fit of pique when substituted during the Manchester derby provided more pointers to a summer of departures from Old Trafford.
Ronaldo left the ground within 15 minutes of the end of the game, underlining his dissatisfaction. But Tevez's future looks even more uncertain.
His representatives will today begin the active pursuit of a new Premier League club for a player who is on Manchester City's wishlist and for whom another north-west club appears a firm possibility. A link-up with compatriot Javier Mascherano at Liverpool is a possibility and there is some belief within the Tevez camp that Everton might be keen – though David Moyes indicated only three days ago that he expects another frustrating summer without resources.
Tevez's hands-behind-the-ears gesture in front of the United chief executive, David Gill, was an open expression of frustration of the club's refusal, to date, to make his loan from investment companies headed by Kia Joorabchian, a permanent one.
His protest was actually directed at the wrong man. It is for Sir Alex Ferguson to decide whether the fee, allied to the increase in wages which the deal will bring, represents good value. Ferguson has not yet made that decision.
In the latest of several recent interviews, Tevez, who is frustrated by his limited playing time in major games, said at the weekend: "It's goodbye. I'm leaving and I do so with my head held high." The structure of the deal which brought him to Old Trafford may also have contributed to his frustration.
Sources suggested yesterday that he feels two years on loan have made United complacent about his value, underlined yesterday by his superb right-foot strike which put United 2-0 ahead on 45 minutes and another effort, on the half-hour, which crashed against the top of Shay Given's left-hand post. "Sign him up," the United fans sang, not for the first time.
Ferguson refused to discuss the weekend comments, after a win which takes United three points clear of Liverpool in second place with a game in hand. "I didn't read it. You hear these things," the manager said. "He's a Man United player. The fans love triers and that's the great thing about football: a lad who tries a lot can be forgiven for a lot of things. If he keeps scoring I've got no problem at all." But Tevez's contractual position had not changed, Ferguson admitted. Tevez's list of complaints also include Ferguson's tendency to substitute him "after 60 minutes" but the United manager's decision to withdraw Ronaldo instead led the Portuguese to snatch his track-suit top and sit in the dugout shaking his head and mouthing "f****** joke."
Considering only Edwin van der Sar and Nemanja Vidic have started more games this season, Ronaldo, who scored United's first, can have few complaints. Ferguson said: "You know what he's like. He's such a great athlete but I've got to think about [this week's games]." Ferguson now has Liverpool's tally of 18 titles within his grasp. Win at Wigan on Wednesday and secure a point against Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime and a third consecutive title will be his.
He hopes to have Rio Ferdinand, who suffered a thigh strain in training on Saturday, back for Wigan though Jonny Evans, dosed up after an illness at the weekend, looked comfortable. City lacked the self-belief to be expected of the League's wealthiest club, though Mark Hughes was coy about Tevez. "He was the thorn in our side. I thought he played exceptionally well... but I'm not going to comment on a United player. I'm sure Sir Alex wouldn't expect me to or want me to."
United are pessimistic about Uefa rescinding Darren Fletcher's Champions League red card today and feel they would be worse off if Barcelona's idea of a moratorium on suspensions for the final were implemented.Reuse content