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Friday, May 23, 2008

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.'

Owen Hargreaves believes Manchester United are entering a glorious new era.

The England midfielder was thrilled to mark his debut season at the club by getting his hands on the Champions League trophy - for a second time - and the league championship title.

Hargreaves showed a cool head to score in the dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Chelsea in Moscow.

Seven years on from winning the cup with Bayern Munich, he was celebrating again.

Hargreaves, who left Germany in the summer, said: 'That's why I came here to United.

'Some people were saying it was about the money - which is was never about.

'I wanted to be part of something special. Most of the pieces were in place to do that but I knew I could be a good addition to the squad.

'I really thought we could achieve great things at this club.

'At the beginning of the season we said we wanted to win the league and we wanted to win the Champions League.

'You hear big teams say that quite a lot, but to actually do it is quite an achievement.

'I'm sure the boss (Sir Alex Ferguson) will look at things again in the summer and see what we need to do to improve, because we can always improve.

'We're going to have a month off now and then start all over again.'

Hargreaves has enjoyed an impressive end to the campaign after fitness problems when he arrived in England.

He said: 'I didn't want to complain - that is something my dad taught me.

'But I think people can now see the difference physically and what I'm able to do.

'Don't get me wrong, I'm a professional and I want to play, but I just wasn't physically capable of doing so.

'The boss was just waiting for the right time. They put me in the right games and now I feel good. My knees have improved a lot.'

Dad Colin, who played for Bolton's youth team before emigrating to Canada, was in attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium to watch his son convert the penalty.

'He's the most nervous man ever in the stadium, so I'm sure he's pleased it went the right way,' said the United star, who was brought up in Calgary.

'He was in a right state but I didn't think for one minute I'd miss. If you have doubts in your mind you can miss, so you have to be positive.'

United had taken the lead thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's 42nd goal of the season, only for Frank Lampard to pull Chelsea level.

Lampard and Didier Drogba - who was sent off late on - both saw their efforts come back off the woodwork.

It was not to be for Chelsea and Hargreaves added: 'It is just fantastic, a great final.

'In the first half we should have led 3-0 but then Chelsea played well.

'The penalty shoot-out was crazy and I am very sorry for Michael Ballack (whom he played with at Bayern).'

Wayne: History drove us on

Wayne Rooney says the club's history played a big part in inspiring United to double glory on Wednesday night.

In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and 40 years since the the club's first European Cup triumph, it was fitting that the class of 2008 ran out victorious in Moscow.

"We weren’t really thinking about it [the history] during the game because you’re so focused on doing well in the match. But we thought about it before kick-off and, of course, afterwards," Rooney told

"We all know about the great history of this club and to win it 50 years after Munich and 40 years after ’68 is brilliant for everyone connected to the club, especially for the players and their families who were involved in both.

"It’s an unbelievable feeling to have won it. I feel very proud personally, but it’s about the team.

"We’ve all worked very hard over the last two or three seasons and I think we deserve it."

Vida eyes repeat triumph

Fresh from picking up his second winners' medal in 10 days, Nemanja Vidic is already thinking about adding to his collection next season.

The Serbian was a tower of strength in the Reds' backline alongside Rio Ferdinand as United kept Chelsea at bay in the Champions League final in Moscow.

And having experienced the elation of helping the club to their third European Cup triumph, Vidic says the squad are determined to defend their title.

"When you pick up the trophy and you celebrate with your team-mates and the fans it makes you want to do it all over again because the feeling is so good," he told

"It's something I'll always remember and I hope I get the chance to experience it again.

"We will try our best to do that and we already have a big motivation to win it again next season."

Sir Alex: Ronaldo is staying

Sir Alex Ferguson firmly believes Cristiano Ronaldo’s immediate future at United is secure, but he says future Reds success in Europe is vital to keeping the prodigious Portuguese winger at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has four years left on his current contract, but Sir Alex admits a time will come when the player has a “big decision” to make over his future.

United clinched a dramatic third European Cup in Moscow on Wednesday and Sir Alex says improving that record even further will be a crucial point in persuading Ronaldo to extend his stay in Manchester even further.

Real Madrid continue to make the world aware of their interest in Ronaldo’s services. But Sir Alex remains unflustered, as he should having just won a league and European Cup double.

“You get used to it with Madrid,” said the United boss on Friday. “The simple fact of the matter is that he has four years left on his contract and he is happy here.

“Of course, the players you want to keep, you have to work hard to keep. That is a fact in the modern era. He is 23, when he gets to 25 or 26 he will have a big decision to make. That will be our biggest task when he gets to that age.

“It’s about how big we become and how big we are then in terms of European trophies. That European success will resonate with him. That’s why I make the point about us striving to be better at winning European Cups."

It was fate

Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the best is still to come after Manchester United clinched the Double in dramatic fashion. Ryan Giggs and Edwin van der Sar sealed United's sudden-death shootout joy in Moscow after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Champions League final. And Ferguson insisted victory was down to fate - 50 years after the Munich air disaster decimated the club's Busby Babes. The United chief said: "I think this has the makings of being my best ever team. It’s fantastic. I think there is a sense of fate about this. I think we deserved to win."
Neil Custis, The Sun