As they prepare to sell one of the most prolific goalscorers in their history, United looked set to draw a dismal blank in the second game of their South African tour. Although the club have rejected strong rumours a deal has been done to sell Ruud van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid, it seems only a matter of time before the 30-year-old — one of only eight players to score 150 goals for United — relocates to Madrid.
And, on last night’s evidence, he will take some replacing. For, with Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney still on summer leave, a bid for Fernando Torres on hold and neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nor Giuseppe Rossi looking convincing, United were largely impotent in front of goal.
United boss Alex Ferguson insists Cristiano Ronaldo is going nowhere and believes the winger will not be adversely affected by any abuse from the terraces next season over his clash with Wayne Rooney. Ferguson also insisted van Nistelrooy will not be allowed to leave on the cheap and hinted at a possible move for Patrick Vieira following the demotion of Juventus.
Ronaldo had expressed a desire to leave Britain and United, prompting speculation of a move to Real Madrid.
However, Ferguson said: “Without any question, Ronaldo will be our player next season and for the rest of his contract. I haven’t paid much attention to what Cristiano is supposed to have said about his future, but he will be back on July 31 to start training again with us.
“I haven’t spoken to him since the World Cup, but there have been other players down the years who have had stick. David
Beckham came back after the World Cup in 1998 and had it, while Eric Cantona had it all the time.
They can only boo for so long, and if you’re playing well and winning, it quietens them down.”
Van Nistelrooy is expected to join Real, although Ferguson insists the Dutch striker will only leave if the price is right.
“There’s a possibility that Ruud will go,” said Ferguson. “There have been bits of interest in him, but no one at this moment has reached our asking price. When you see that Andriy Shevchenko went for £30 million (43 million), he’s a similar age to Ruud and their record in Europe is almost identical, so you can absolutely guarantee that we’re not going to give Ruud away.”
Ferguson is believed to have earmarked Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres as a possible replacement for van Nistelrooy. And he yesterday fuelled speculation that United may look to bring Vieira back to the Premiership following the relegation of Juventus.
Ferguson said: “Everybody will be looking at all the Juventus players. Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Thuram, Emerson and Vieira are the ones that people will be focusing on because there’s some element that suggests that players could maybe have free transfers if they were going outside of Italy.
“We’re talking to several clubs, but obviously the Italian situation has given us a different avenue. We have held a lot of things back until we knew what the Juventus situation was. Now we know where we’re going in terms of making definite inquiries and maybe definite offers for one or two players.”
KAIZER CHIEFS: Fernandez, Nzama, Bartlett, Tau, Obua, Zwane, Schalkwyk, Nkosi, Mototo, Ngobese, Mayo.
MAN UTD: Foster, Simpson, O’Shea, Brown, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Richardson, Rossi, Solskjaer.
Subs: Miller, David Jones, Eagles, Gibson, Dong, Steele, Bardsley, Evans.