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Man Utd right to sell Ronaldo

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Phil McNulty | 09:56 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed he would never sell Real Madrid a virus let alone Cristiano Ronaldo - but a cheque for £80m holds unique powers of persuasion for Manchester United and their manager.

Ferguson infamously put down Real's pursuit of Ronaldo last summer with the words: "Do you think I would get into a contract with that mob? Absolutely no chance."

And yet Ferguson, who has never turned his back on a tough choice and made it his mission to keep Ronaldo from The Bernabeu the last time Real came calling, is unlikely to have lingered long in striking a deal with "that mob" this time.

Ferguson has a sure touch when it comes to sensing a player's era is over at Old Trafford, and he will have detected all the vital signs from Ronaldo last season that it was time to part.

Real's world record bid will ease any pain of separation - and makes this the right deal at the right time for Ferguson and United.

Ferguson will have played his full part in the decision to finally sell Ronaldo. A deal of this magnitude would not have been done without the great Old Trafford dictator's say-so.

He has nurtured and developed Ronaldo since he signed from Sporting Lisbon in a £12.24m deal in August 2003 - transforming a teenage show pony into the finished article and arguably the finest footballer of his generation.

But Manchester United will always be bigger than Ronaldo and the prospect of a tedious annual summer circus involving Real Madrid and the Portuguese winger means it is now time to move on.

Ferguson talked Ronaldo down from a move to Spain 12 months ago, but United's manager could not afford to spend huge swathes of every close season persuading a player - no matter how vital - to stay at Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo

He got another season and another title out of Ronaldo. Now is the time to cash in, with United pointing the finger in the player's direction by making it clear that he had "again expressed his desire to leave."

And Ferguson will also have been aware that Ronaldo's status among United's fans, at an all-time high after the 2008 Champions League win against Chelsea, had been damaged by his apparent desire to join Real after that triumph.

Ronaldo-watching was an intriguing experience for those of us who attended Old Trafford on a regular basis last season. The affection was never unconditional and even that was diminished - there was a suspicion that he only remained at Old Trafford on sufferance.

This is not to demonise Ronaldo, who still played his part as United secured their third Premier League title in succession and reached the Champions League final once more, but he was not the same influence and was betrayed by his obvious body language.

Ronaldo was too often prone to the pout, waving his arms impatiently when team-mates did not serve his needs. He even indulged in the hazardous occupation of a public show of dissent when he was, with every justification, substituted by Ferguson against Manchester City at Old Trafford late last season.

And Old Trafford was not slow to show its discontent on these occasions. Ronaldo was regarded as a lavishly-gifted drama queen by many supporters and the groans told the story. Greater love was reserved for Carlos Tevez, not as naturally talented but more willing to chase the lost cause. This was afforded greater appreciation.

Ronaldo's posturing did not paint him as a team player, and this is central to all of Ferguson's work. He now has £80m to compensate for his departure and may just have a happier, more settled, dressing room as he plots how to spend his new noney.

This is a deal that suits all parties. Real land another galactico, capping a reasonable week for additions to their squad by adding Ronaldo to Kaka's arrival, while United get a huge return on their initial investment as Ronaldo gets the move he has craved.

The timing is also to United's liking. No long-drawn out discussions - a quick deal that allows Ferguson time and space to seek out re-inforcements, a process that has no doubt already started.

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo

It would be unfair, in the extreme, however, to simply wave Ronaldo on his way by reviving memories of his petulance while ignoring the brilliance he has delivered on a regular basis in the last six years.

United have made an almost unthinkable profit on that initial deal, but no-one must ever deny that he has given wonderful value to them in turn - especially in 2008, when he was peerless in scoring 42 goals.

The Premier League and its packed galleries may not have warmed to Ronaldo's footballing personality, but it is beyond question that he has sprinkled golddust over the domestic game in recent seasons. It is a league that will be lessened by his leaving.

It is sad, in many ways, that his departure will not be mourned in many quarters, but he has brought this upon himself with the very obvious arrogance and self-confidence that is so often the hallmark of the great player.

Ferguson's thoughts will now turn to replacing Ronaldo. And the names in the frame are immediately obvious, with Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery, Lyon striker Karim Benzema and Wigan Athletic's Antonio Valencia potential targets.

Old Trafford may even get its wish to have Tevez on a permanent basis, while the absence of Ronaldo may allow a crucial tactical adjustment with Rooney moving into a more central, influential, role.

Ronaldo's impending relocation to Madrid may just raise expectations at Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal - but Ferguson is the master of renewal and this deal would not have been signed off if the manager felt this would seriously weaken United's search for silverware.

It will be intriguing to witness how Ronaldo is received in Spain. He is unlikely to be any more popular there than he was here. Barcelona's fans whistled and jeered the mere appearance of his face on the giant screens before the Champions League final in Rome - this simply for expressing a desire to play for arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Ironically, Barcelona's demolition of United on that balmy night appears to have been the final poke in the eye Real required to embark on another scorched earth transfer policy.

Ronaldo is the latest element in returning Real president Florentino Perez's attempt to create a new group of galacticos, but he is not guaranteed success on the highest stage by simply making this move.

Real may have a devastating array of attacking weaponry, but Perez might have been better employed strengthening in defence as his top priority. The roof might be going on before the foundations are in place.

For Ferguson, United's post-Ronaldo era will start the day he is paraded at The Bernabeu - with thanks for his efforts but without regrets at his departure.

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