Will Tevez row spoil Man Utd party?
Sir Alex Ferguson is quite clear about who Manchester United fans should blame if their hero Carlos Tevez is not at Old Trafford next season.
"(Carlos) knows we want him to stay...and the terms he has been offered are good," the Scot said after watching Tevez inspire United to a victory that took them within touching distance of the Premier League title on Wednesday.
"The problem is we are not negotiating with a football club."
Instead, United are dealing with 37-year-old Kia Joorabchian, who reacted immediately to Ferguson's comments with a furious statement arguing it was "categorically untrue" that United had made an offer for Tevez.
The Iranian-born businessman fronts a group of investors who own the economic rights to the tenacious Argentine striker.
He says United actually agreed the terms of a permanent transfer for Tevez back in 2007, when they negotiated a two-year loan deal for him.
I spoke to Joorabchian earlier this week and he said: "They had an option to sign him permanently and have chosen not to take it up. They have not made an offer and it's inevitable now that he will leave United. There are no hard feelings."
Joorabchian said several other clubs had already expressed an interest in the player, although discussions with them had gone no further because Tevez was focussed on winning the Premier League and Champions League with United.
Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City are the clubs that have been linked most persistently with the 25-year-old. And Joorabchian certainly doesn't discount the possibility - which would be particularly galling for United's fans - of Tevez joining City.
"The Champions League is the biggest but Carlos isn't the kind of person that says 'I have to play for this club, in this situation'," he said. "He wants to go to a club that has a real ambition and focus."
Joorabchian already has a working relationship with City, having sold another of his players, the striker Jo, to them in 2008. And a current member of City's board told me he was involved in talks to bring AC Milan superstar Kaka to Eastlands in January, although "not in the main talks".
The companies that own Tevez obviously want to get the best possible return on their investment. Although their valuation of the player has not been revealed, Ferguson has suggested he and United are unwilling to meet it.
So we look set for a few more weeks of brinkmanship to coincide with United's quest to retain both the Premier League and Champions League.
What is certain is that this will be the last time United have to negotiate with a third party for a player. Last summer the Premier League introduced rules outlawing third-party ownership and if another English club does land Tevez, they will have to buy him outright.
Joorabchian would be unable to retain a stake in the striker. His involvement with Tevez stretches back to the summer of 2005, when he was a director with Media Sports Investments and they brought Tevez to Corinthians from Boca Juniors for a fee of £14m.
If Tevez does choose to leave United, how much will they miss him? Ferguson seemed to damn the player with faint praise after watching him score in the win over Manchester City last Sunday.
"The fans love a trier," he said. "That's the great thing about football - a lad who tries can be forgiven for a lot of things."
The implication was that Tevez was more perspiration than inspiration, the polar opposite of Dimitar Berbatov, a player the United fans are yet to warm to. Tevez's goalscoring record in his two years at United has been modest.
In 28 league appearances this season, 11 of which have been as a sub, he has scored five goals. Last season he hit 14 goals in 34 appearances, all but three of which were from the bench.
Could Ferguson add more spark and impetus to his squad by using his transfer kitty to sign a completely new player?
Or will he struggle to replace a striker who has become a fans' favourite thanks to his tireless work ethic and knack of scoring crucial goals?