When Edwin Van Der Sar turned away Nicolas AnelkaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s penalty to win the Champions League final back in May, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must have thought that life couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get any better.
His team had held off the challenge of Chelsea and Arsenal to win the Premier League and had defeated Barcelona and Chelsea to notch the big one. He had announced that he would manage the club for two more years and he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have felt happier in his life.
Since then, instead of having a relaxing and exciting close season looking at how he could add to and tweak his squad to ensure another super successful season, he has seen a protracted attempt to lure his best player away from the club and a successful attempt to lure away his assistant manager who is so important to him and who he had wanted to take over from him when he finally retires.
As an onlooker it is difficult to understand why people would be wanting to leave such a huge club beating everyone and everything before them. It would seem more likely that superstars from around the world would be beating the door down to try to get in rather than get out. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure Sir Alex must find it even harder to understand.
Carlos Queiroz has made the decision to take the job of being the coach of his native Portugal. It is an understandable decision and although Fergie will be desperately disappointed to have lost him, he will fully understand why he has gone. Cristiano Ronaldo on the other hand is another situation entirely. It seems that the football world is fully behind the Portuguese wingerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right to completely ignore his contract, dishonour his word and his legal obligations and go to Real Madrid, simply because he wants to.
Sir Alex must be hurt by what is going on because he gave Ronaldo his chance, pays him a ridiculous amount of money and has built a young side around him that could go on dominating European football for the full four years left on the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contract. Without Ronaldo the task will be a little harder. Not impossible, but harder.
Fergie, unlike his past record would suggest, is remaining incredibly quiet about these matters. He has said that he knew he would have trouble keeping Queiroz as soon as he knew Portugal were interested. He has said that he thinks Real Madrid have been Ã¢â‚¬Ëœout of orderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in the public way they have courted Ronaldo. However, for one normally so outspoken, he has said remarkably little.
On Saturday, after their pre-season 2-0 win at Aberdeen, Ferguson was asked about the heinous slavery comments made by Blatter and endorsed by Ronaldo. He refused to comment, saying that he would only talk about football.
Sir Alex knows that he is likely to lose Cristiano Ronaldo and the loss of him and Queiroz will be a serious blow to the club and to him personally. Fergie has always been more successful when he has had an experienced and talented coach alongside him. Queiroz is particularly useful in organising the side defensively. It is a remarkable statistic that in his two spells as coach of United they have conceded an average of 28.6 goals per season. Over the same period when he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t at the club they have conceded an average of 38.6 goals.
The loss of Ronaldo would do more than simply remove forty-two goals from the side. They have many other fine players and they will fill his place with an exceptional international footballer, but it is a fact that teams playing United without Ronaldo will be less intimidated and awe struck than they would be playing them with him in the side.
Fergie must lie awake at nights wondering how with all the success he and the club have achieved, he is looking at losing the man he regards as the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best player and the man he regards as the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best coach.
I am no lover of Manchester United and I am certainly no great fan of Fergie the man. I do have an awful lot of respect for the club and the manager, however, and I do feel a little sorry for him in the current circumstances.
Ronaldo is due to return to Old Trafford on 28th July and I would expect Fergie to put aside all the calm, quietness he is currently displaying and unleash the famous hairdryer with considerable venom. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame him if he does.
Sir Alex must really want to tell Ronaldo to get out of the club and never come back. Unfortunately for him, he knows just how important the mercurial winger is to the team.
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