Fergie: Real Madrid lack morals
Sir Alex Ferguson has accused Real Madrid of lacking morals over their dogged pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barely had the champagne been uncorked after Manchester United's momentous Champions League final triumph over Chelsea than Ronaldo's Old Trafford future was thrown into question.
The 23-year-old candidate for world footballer of the year has hardly helped with a series of ambigious statements, which seemed to be aimed at increasing his salary despite only agreeing a new five-year contract last summer.
Real have wasted little time in making their interest known in a player coach Bernd Schuster would love to have at the Bernabeu.
Both Schuster and club president Ramon Calderon have expressed their admiration for the Portugal winger, which has only served to increase Ferguson's annoyance.
'They think they can ride roughshod over everyone but they won't do it with us,' declared the Scot.
'Real Madrid have no moral issues at all.
'In terms of great clubs, Barcelona have far better morality than Real Madrid will ever have.
'Do you not think we have had many expressions of interest about our players from big clubs in Europe?
'Real Madrid are not the only club interested in Ronaldo. But the others are not saying so. They don't get into this nonsense.'
Ferguson has found particularly ironic a statement from Calderon effectively alleging Ronaldo is remaining at United against his will.
Given General Franco's 40-year dictatorship was often to the benefit of Real in their battles with Catalan giants Barcelona, it is a comment the Manchester United manager is happy to submerge in sarcasm.
'I read on Teletext last night; Calderon is talking, Schuster is talking,' he said.
'Calderon makes that great statement `Slavery was abolished many years ago'. Did they tell Franco that? Give me a break.
'The simple fact is Cristiano has another four years left on his contract.'
However, it does not appear the Spanish giants will abandon their attempt to lure Ronaldo to La Liga.
After all, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo's good friend Gabriel Heinze have all joined Real from United in recent years.
In Heinze's case it was a deal that suited United totally given the player's oft-stated desire to join Liverpool.
Beckham and Van Nistelrooy were apparently in their prime when they left Old Trafford though, a fact not lost on observers who feel Madeira-born Ronaldo will eventually find the lure of Spain too great to resist.
Yet Ferguson is happy to point out both Beckham and Van Nistelrooy had reached the end of their usefulness for the Red Devils, who do not let players go who they want to keep.
'It doesn't matter which player it is, the ones you want to keep you have to work hard for,' he said.
'In the modern day that is a fact. It is not lost on Manchester United but it is not lost on Real Madrid either.
'Yes, we sold them Van Nistelrooy and Beckham but we did that because we wanted to.'
With Ronaldo now due to join up with Portugal ahead of their Euro 2008 campaign and therefore not expected back at United's Carrington training complex until the end of July, his future will be the subject of endless discussion over the coming weeks.
However, neither Ferguson nor chief executive David Gill has been anything other than steadfast in their conviction Ronaldo will start the 2008-09 campaign at Old Trafford.
The same cannot be said of Gerard Pique though, with Ferguson confirming he has decided to let the young defender leave for Barcelona.
Louis Saha may also be allowed to move on, although United are looking to strengthen rather than weaken a squad which has just landed the biggest prizes of all.
'I met with (assistant) Carlos Queiroz this morning and analysed what we need next year,' revealed Ferguson.
'Right away with have three extra games, one in the Super Cup and two in World Club Championship in Japan.
'That trip takes it out of you and it is more or less a week away.
'We have seen what happened to Rangers this year after playing 67 games so we need to decide what our squad is going to be.'