Can Fergie Be Believed on Manchester United's Sale of Cristiano Ronaldo?

nigel smithCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2010

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid waits for play to resume during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Villarreal at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 21, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Is Sir Alex’s latest explanation of the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo an accurate account or another public relations fiasco for United?

In an interview with the Observer newspaper last Sunday, the United boss said: "The only reason he was sold was because the boy fervently wanted to leave.

“He played that extra season, did fantastically for us, and after the Cup final [the Champions League loss to Barcelona] came to me and said: 'Boss, I want to leave.' I said: 'Right, you've done another year, let me consider it.' The next day an offer came in for £80m."

Is Ferguson sincere when he states that Real Madrid made an offer only after he had been informed of Ronaldo's wish to leave United?

It was widely reported last year that United had negotiated the money-spinning transfer of Ronaldo as early as the summer of 2008.

Former Madrid president Juan Calderon was happy to let the cat out of the bag when seeking to snatch kudos for the record-breaking transfer from his replacement Florentino Perez.

"Last season United decided not to do it because they thought it was too early and everyone agreed to do it this season,” he told the Belfast Telegraph last June.  

"Let’s say that everyone involved in the operation agreed to do it this season. That is what I can say."

The Mail newspaper endorsed that view with its investigation into the background to the transfer saga.

Last June, it revealed that: "Perez stated several times that the club was determined to land Ronaldo, despite being unhappy with the fee.

"It is understood the 62-year-old tried to renegotiate the agreement—which dates back to last summer—with Old Trafford Chief Executive David Gill.

“But the Barclays Premier League champions would not budge and Perez decided to invoke the agreement rather than seeing one of their main targets fall from their grasp.

"The agreement would have expired on June 30, with widespread reports in Spain saying that Madrid would have had to pay up a £26m penalty if they did not follow through with the signing."

In the past nine months, United have made no effort to publicly deny the version of events reported by the Mail newspaper.

Perhaps, this is how deals are done for extraordinary players in modern football. Being caught out in a simple deception might just be the price of doing business at high stakes.

Nevertheless, by commenting again on the transfer, Sir Alex raises important questions about his "understanding" of how his star player was sold to Madrid.

Was the manager kept informed of the true extent of negotiations with Real Madrid? If so, what did he know and when did he know it?

It is surely inconceivable that Gill would keep secret from the manager his behind the scenes negotiations with Real Madrid.

In that case, Ferguson's version of events in the Observer is nothing more than media spin, designed to maintain the public fiction that United reluctantly and at the very last minute conceded the transfer of the club's best player in 30 years.

Many fans are now convinced that the Ronaldo transfer fee was vital to the Glazer family's financial stewardship of the club and that this money has disappeared down the Glazer black hole of debt.

That is why the continuing rumours about the future of star player Wayne Rooney raise so much disquiet.

in these circumstances, the manager's lack of clarity is unfortunate. Its timing could not be worse.

The "Green and Gold" protest is already a huge public relations embarrassment for the club, advertising discontent and forcing United spokesmen onto the defensive.

This latest gaffe will only fuel suspicions that fans have good reason to disbelieve what they hear from the club on transfers and perhaps, on other issues, at a time when United’s need for straight-talking could not be more urgent.