Sir Alex Ferguson has moved to end the constant speculation surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo's desire to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid by warning the player, in a face-to-face meeting in Portugal, that he will not be sold by the European champions this summer.
Although Ronaldo's injured ankle prevented the 23-year-old from joining his United team-mates in Cape Town yesterday on the first leg of the club's three-game pre-season tour, last season's double Footballer of the Year, and his future, remained the only topic of interest as Ferguson spoke ahead of today's friendly against Kaizer Chiefs at Newlands.
And after remaining silent on the matter, publicly, throughout the summer, Ferguson revealed that he had made a trip to Portugal in order to make clear to Ronaldo that he will continue to be a United player next season.
Ferguson said: "I went out to see Cristiano in Portugal earlier this week. It was very amicable and there were no problems, so therefore we carry on. There is no problem for Manchester United or the manager.
"What I said to Cristiano will remain private, but the meeting went well. We both made our points of view about where we stand and where the player stands and what I can say is that he will be a Manchester United player next summer. That's our stance. He won't be sold.
"It's not a difficult position for us. I don't know where people get this thing from. I was on my holiday and I was not going to interrupt my holiday – believe me – for the simple reason that the boy is under contract. The strength and the rights are with Manchester United."
Following his meeting with Ferguson, Ronaldo, still on crutches as a result of ankle surgery earlier this month, flew to California for an awards' dinner in Los Angeles and the player could yet choose to counter his manager's comments by once again talking up his ambitions to play for Madrid.
The only thing certain about Ronaldo's immediate future, however, is that he will be sidelined until early October as a result of his ankle operation.
Ferguson added: "He has had an operation, so he will be out for three months. He is on crutches for the first four weeks, he will undergo rehabilitation for the next four weeks and then the rest will be back in training. So the time mapped out for us is three months and we are not going to do it a day earlier than that. When players have operations, as we have shown in the past, our responsibility is to make sure they come back 100 per cent fit and we will carry that out as we normally do. There will be no risk taking with Cristiano. We never do that anyway."
United arrived in South Africa with a strong first-team squad, minus only the injured Owen Hargreaves and those players on international duty throughout the summer. Club captain Gary Neville is due to make his second first-team start in a week today after lengthy injury problems and the defender admits that the game will pose another test for his fitness. He said: "It was great to get back to action at Aberdeen last week, but this game will a lot tougher for me. I missed a lot last season with the team doing so well, but I just have to make sure I continue to improve my fitness in games like this."
* The FA have charged the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra and the Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell with improper conduct, following the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on 26 April. Bethell has also been charged with using abusive language aggravated by reference to nationality/race. Rio Ferdinand has been reminded of his responsibilities to the game over the same incident.Reuse content