We’ve had a terrible season – Keano was booted, Nistelrooy was sidelined, we crashed out of the Champions League bottom of our group, we lost to Liverpool in the FA Cup, Rooney got injured, stuttered in the last sprint to the title race and ended up second, and now, after more than a month of all talk and no transfer activity, we are on the verge of losing two of our best attacking players of the last three seasons – Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Keane is gone, and after two seasons of avoiding to deal with reality Ferguson and United now face the unenviable task of bringing two quality midfielders to Old Trafford. The only problem is that with all of United’s troubles the ‘good’ midfielders are unwilling to come unless we pay top dollar, and ditto for the average ones (Carrick). You can’t play another season with Smith, O’Shea and Fletcher propping up the midfield – Scholes is old and still an attacking midfielder, while Giggs is best on the left (although like Dwight Yorke he’s discovered some defensive ability in his old age).
Diarra, once touted as United’s saviour, is now looking more likely to go to Real Madrid (who will be willing to pay more than Manchester United) with Houiller saying just as much recently. Lyon want the money, and Diarra wants to leave. It doesn’t take a college education to figure out where Diarra will go if it comes down to a money-game. United lost last year on Essien to Chelsea, and they look to be loosing this year to Madrid.
So we now get Carrick, for an absurd 14.2 mil pounds (as reported). And even Carrick is not certain to come, with Tottenham fighting it to the end. Things will be clearer once the England squad comes back home, but on the surface it looks like a bad sign for United – to get a 8-9 mil midfielder for 14-15 is not the best deal in the world. United are desperate, and they are paying for their transfer arena mistakes of the past few years.
Alex Ferguson and David Gill are still on vacation, but already they have a mountain to climb when they come back. Ruud still has to be dealt with, and it looks like Gill (and not Glazers, as some would have us believe) may have told Ferguson that selling Nistelrooy was not a realistic option. If push comes to shove Nistelrooy will kiss and makeup with any teammate he had problems with, but will Ferguson?
The worst though, has been this Ronaldo rumour. While Villar Mir himself cannot be trusted, it is interesting to note the sequence of events as well as the actual statements made by all sides.
First, Marca publish quotes attributed to Cristiano Ronaldo saying:
“I have told my agent I am prepared to leave.”
“I want to do it in the best manner possible. I want to play for Real Madrid and dream of doing so. I have gone with Villar Mir’s project because it is serious and follows correct procedures.
“Other candidates wanted me to sign a document which is not legal. Villar Mir has promised me he will talk to the club and all we have done is talk through an agent. They have explained to me their plans and the next step is they will talk to Manchester United to open negotiations.”
United initally dismissed these claims as false but when Marca claimed that these sources and quotes had been confirmed (that is, people close to Villar Mir had confirmed that talks had taken place between Ronaldo and Villar Mir), United came out with a strongly-worded statement that said:
“There has been no contact between Manchester United, his election team and or Real Madrid and any suggestion there has is incorrect. Unfortunately, these tactics seem to be a common occurrence in elections of this nature. Ronaldo has signed a long-term contract until June 2010 and will be a player with Manchester United next season.”
Thank you, United, for stating the bloody obvious. Of course Villar Mir has not talked to United so far. With Gill and Ferguson on holiday, there’s no one with the authority to make the sort of deal Peter Kenyon made with Laporta in 2003 over Beckham. Of course, things are different – United don’t want Ronaldo to leave. But without anyone to make the deal, of course there will be no contact.
No statements have come out of Germany from Ronaldo. That’s the key here – if your star player is linked with Madrid (with quotes attributed to him) and after two days you haven’t issued a denial there’s a pretty strong chance the ‘rumours’ are true. That, plus Ronaldo’s history at United where he has always gone for the flash and glory (something about number 7s?) and Madrid will be throwing their money at him just like they’ve thrown money on stars and marketable commodities for so long.
When Ferguson gets back, he will have hell to deal with. No transfers, two players on the way out, a midfield and strike force in tatters and a defense that boasts of Silvestre as backup.