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By ESPN Staff

Sir Alex unhappy with Van Nistelrooy's committment

Sir Alex Ferguson has sensationally accused Ruud van Nistelrooy of trying to undermine team spirit at Manchester United.

Van Nistelrooy drove away from Old Trafford in a fit of temper three hours before kick-off after being told by Ferguson he would not be in United's starting line-up for the 4-0 win over Charlton.

It is thought he was told he would only be on the bench for the game, with Ferguson instead preferring 19-year-old Giuseppe Rossi as Louis Saha's strike partner.

Van Nistelrooy's reaction seemed certain to signal the end of his prolific five-year stint at Old Trafford and any pretence the 29-year-old's future could be salvaged appears to have been swept away completely by Ferguson's damning assessment.

'There have been a couple of incidents in training this week which have concerned me about team spirit,' revealed Ferguson.

'This was such an important game for us, I just wanted everyone together so I felt Ruud should be left out of the team.

'Sometimes in management, you have to make tough decisions like that. It was for the benefit of Manchester United

'I do not need to say anything else about it at the moment. I will discuss it with the directors tomorrow and Tuesday.'

If past history is any guide, there will not be too much to discuss.

Ferguson places team spirit among the highest on his list of priorities and there has been plenty of evidence from Van Nistelrooy's body language over the past three months to suggest he is not buying into the collective ethic.

And, while the list of players who have fallen foul of Ferguson's ruthless steak is extensive, including as it does Jim Leighton, Paul Ince, Jaap Stam and David Beckham, those who have lived to tell the tale are non-existent.

Only on Friday, Van Nistelrooy was talking about his commitment to playing in Roy Keane's testimonial on Tuesday.

Instead, his next competitive game seems likely to be in Holland's forthcoming friendly against Cameroon on May 27 with this summer's World Cup the shop window from which he will hope to gain a move which will salvage his career.

Van Nistelrooy's hasty exit completely overshadowed another handsome Old Trafford win for United over Charlton, a result which booked the Red Devils' place in next season's Champions League group phase.

'We really needed this result,' said Ferguson. 'Getting into the Champions League directly is so important to us.'

It was Saha, the man Ferguson named ahead of Van Nistelrooy for the Carling Cup final win over Wigan in February to start the renewed storm over the Dutchman's future, who started the rout, nodding home a Ryan Giggs first-half corner.

By the interval, United were three up thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo effort and Jason Euell's own goal.

Kieran Richardson added another just before the hour mark to send the hosts into the summer in optimistic mood, with Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer both making welcome substitute appearances.

It was a sad way for Alan Curbishley to end his 15 years at Charlton and left him wishing Ferguson had presented him with a couple of return tickets to New Zealand a bit earlier.

'Halfway though the first half, I wish I could have gone a bit further than New Zealand,' smiled Curbishley, whose sister lives in the country.

'Sir Alex also gave me a special bottle of red. He should make it two for the four points we took off Liverpool.'

Curbishley also paid tribute to Ferguson, who is about to enter his 20th year at Old Trafford, a length of service even the departing Charlton boss cannot match.

'Whenever I speak to Sir Alex he always talks about the enthusiasm he has for the job,' said Curbishley.

'He still has a couple of challenges on his mind. He wants to build another great side.

'I think Chelsea's dominance over the last couple of years has spurred him into action.'

Meanwhile, Curbishley revealed he had taken striker Darren Bent off at half-time purely as a precaution ahead of the World Cup.

'We were losing 3-0 so I didn't see the point in jeopardising the lad's chances of being fully fit for the World Cup,' he said. 'At least he can say he will be (fit) now.'