Carlos Tevez's advisers insisted yesterday that his absence from Manchester United's club awards on Sunday was not a reflection of his dislocated relationship with the club, though his failure to show has reinforced the sense that there will be no future for him at Old Trafford beyond June.
Tevez, the sole absentee from the evening which saw Nemanja Vidic take the fans' and players' player of the year awards, was at home caring for his four-year-old daughter Florencia, who had a temperature.
The Argentine's wife, Vanessa, does not yet have a good grasp of English and Tevez was said to have been keen to support her. But his absence as United celebrated their 18th title, secured the day before, only increases the sense that there will not be a breakthrough in United's attempts to knock down the owners of his rights on the figure of £25m still outstanding on buying out his contract.
There is understood to have been no developments in discussions between Kia Joorabchian, who heads the investment companies which own the rights, and other clubs, and Tevez made it clear at the weekend that he has asked Joorabchian to put discussions on hold until after United's Champions League final in Rome.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who has learned that goalkeeper Ben Foster will be missing for nine weeks with ruptured ligaments in his thumb, has stated that this squad is the best he has ever had. Ferguson said the same last season though the emergence of young players in this campaign has given him even more options.
"I have a fantastic squad of about 28 or 29 with the introduction of [Federico] Macheda and [Danny] Welbeck, [Rodrigo] Possebon and the Da Silva twins. I know they're young but very very good players, good characters, and they give us a back-up we have never had before."
It is Ferguson's defence which has proved most decisive in the past nine months and he indicated that he expects to call upon them again in Rome against Barcelona, a week tomorrow.
Recalling last season's semi-final against the Catalans, Ferguson said: "It was nip and tuck last year but I always think of the last 15 minutes. We defended stoutly, great concentration and the celebrations at the end told you how much it meant to the players to get to the final.
"The performance against Arsenal tells you that we are going into the final in the right frame of mind. I'm as confident as I possibly can be simply because we've won the league, we're going there with a fresh team. Darren [Fletcher] will miss it but I think I've got all my other players fit who I will need."
Ferguson said he expected Rio Ferdinand to have recovered from a calf injury and to be fit for the game, and he confirmed that he will have Park Ji-Sung in his squad, the South Korean having missed out in last year's final against Chelsea. "[Park] will not be one of those [who misses out]," he said. "He deserves his place in the squad.
"Whether he starts, I still have to make that big decision about what the team is going to be but he will not be left out this time because it almost broke my heart last year to do that. I just felt we needed someone who could get us a goal. [That player was Nani]. But he's been fantastic for us."Reuse content