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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 17 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Aug 23, 2006

Heinze reveals debt of gratitude to Sir Alex

Gabriel Heinze insists he never had any intention of leaving Manchester United this summer.

The Argentina full-back returned from cruciate ligament surgery to play for his country in the summer's World Cup.

His performances were so effective, speculation quickly began to surface Real Madrid had placed Heinze on their hit-list in case Roberto Carlos opted to leave.

In the end, Carlos decided to stay at the Bernabeu. But Heinze has revealed the prospect of leaving United was not an option.

'I am happy at Manchester United,' Heinze told MUTV. 'This is where I want to play.

'I will never forget how the manager supported me by allowing me to have my knee surgery and rehabilitation in Spain. He is one of the main reasons why I want to stay.'

After showing signs of muscle wastage when he reported back from the World Cup, Heinze is currently on a demanding course of gym work and will be missing tonight as the Red Devils look to maintain their 100% record, against Charlton.

The game will represent Cristiano Ronaldo's first Premiership away-day since being publicly condemned for his role in Wayne Rooney's dismissal for England in Germany.

Ronaldo's appearance at The Valley is sure to be greeted by jeers.

Yet, having suffered in similar fashion in a pre-season friendly at Oxford and responded with two wonder goals, then smashing home another one at Old Trafford on Sunday after the Fulham fans had booed him, Ronaldo has so far provided the perfect response.

And Red Devils utility man John O'Shea thinks eventually opposition supporters will soon discover their animosity towards the Portugal winger is entirely counterproductive.

'Cristiano knows what is coming but I think he will thrive on it,' said O'Shea.

'You can see from the goals he has scored how he reacts to the test.

'Our players always seem to be targeted for certain things but it just tends to spur them on.

'In fact, I think the more people boo him, the better it will be for us.

'Soon enough, I am sure people will start to realise it is better to leave him alone, then the whole thing will start to die off.'

United could certainly do with Ronaldo on top form given their lack of available firepower.

Paul Scholes and Rooney both miss out as they begin their controversial three-match suspensions, while Ryan Giggs is a doubt after being stamped on by Fulham midfielder Michael Brown at the weekend.