Ferguson confronts Real


Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United need to create a new European dynasty to hang on to Cristiano Ronaldo. By Andy Hunter.

Sir Alex Ferguson launched an extraordinary attack on Real Madrid when he accused Cristiano Ronaldo's suitors of moral bankruptcy because of their connections with the fascist dictatorship of General Franco. He also warned Manchester United that they must establish a new European dynasty in the next two years to keep the 42-goal winger at Old Trafford.

The triumph has not diminished Ferguson's appetite for further conquests or, as he made quickly apparent, confrontation. Tired after a delayed return from Moscow and particularly by fresh comments from Real's president, Ramon Calderon, about Ronaldo, the United manager rounded on the Spanish giants in incendiary fashion.

The 66-year-old has rebuked Real's transfer tactics before but never to the extent of bringing the patronage they enjoyed under Franco into the argument. Calderon's insistence, however, that "slavery was abolished a long time ago; nobody can prevent a player from moving", prompted the proclaimed socialist to reveal his true feelings on the nine-time European champions.

"You get used to Madrid's performances on these things," said Ferguson. "Calderon's talking, (the coach Bernd) Schuster's talking, they use Marca as their vehicle to unsettle players. The simple fact of the matter is Ronaldo has got another four years left on his contract and Calderon makes the great statement, �slavery was abolished many, many years ago'. Did they tell Franco that?"

Ferguson's assault on Madrid's political history did not end there. Alluding to Barcelona's suffering during the Spanish Civil War � their president, Josep Sunyol, was executed by Franco's troops in 1936 � the European champion insisted Real's behaviour paled in comparison with their Catalan rivals'.

He added: "There are clubs with great moral issues like Barcelona, they have far better moral issues than Real Madrid will ever have. They must be interested in Ronaldo but they are not saying so. Do you not think we have had interest from the big clubs in Europe about our best players? Of course. But they don't get into the nonsense that Madrid get into. They have no moral issues at all. They think that they can ride roughshod over everyone but they won't do it with us. We sold them (Ruud) Van Nistelrooy and (David) Beckham because we wanted to."

However, Ferguson insisted United would have to "work hard" to keep their prized assets. The Scot revealed he has no plans to sell any senior member of his squad this summer � "They'll all stay, I hope" � but added that only continued success in Europe would end the uncertainty over the Portugal international.

Ferguson also admitted the winger's desire to play in Spain presents a major problem for United � but not this summer. "He's 23 years of age and I think that, when he gets to 25, 26, he will have a big decision to make," he said. "That will be the biggest task when he gets to that age. That will be our biggest task. How big we are then, in terms of European championships, will resonate with him and it will be very, very important to this club. That's why I make the point of winning European trophies. We've got to do better at that."

In that respect Ferguson has taken added satisfaction from the thrilling defeat of Chelsea. "Three has a far better ring to it," he said of United's European Cup count and the manager intends to replicate last summer's transfer policy by signing young talents from the continent such as Nani and Anderson for next season's defence of the double.

Ferguson met his assistant, Carlos Queiroz, to discuss improvements to the squad on their return to Carrington and "the huge demands" of the European Super Cup plus a week in Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup in December will influence their requests to the Glazer family.

Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will feature less next term but will be given the opportunity to extend their Old Trafford careers in a coaching capacity when their glittering playing days come to an end. "They're doing their badges," said Ferguson, "and I've always thought players who've been a great credit to the club should be involved in its future. Bayern Munich have always been the model of that and we are now doing something similar with Bryan Robson and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer."

Solskjaer will run United's reserve team next season alongside Warren Joyce, who is returning from a coaching role with Royal Antwerp, with Brian McClair becoming the full-time director of the club's youth academy.

Another Portuguese problem for Ferguson concerns the future of Queiroz who, despite an ill-fated season in charge of Real Madrid, is coveted by several European clubs and his national team, with the current coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, due to leave after the European Championship. "The Portugal job would be a big attraction but I feel Carlos is at his club," said the United manager. "After his experience with Real Madrid, which is helpful with all the nonsense we are having about Cristiano now, he is at his club. He is well respected here. I am a bit of a dinosaur in areas such as the medical side but Carlos has taken this club on to another level. He will be here a long time."

As for his own reluctance to retire being fuelled by an ambition to overhaul Liverpool's tally of 18 league championships and five European Cups, Ferguson remarked, "I did my job of getting rid of Liverpool from the top a long time ago. The club will take care of the rest."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008