Manchester United: 80 million & dilemma

Once Manchester United have recovered from the realisation that their most prized asset no longer wants to play for them they must decide what best to do with the 80 million pounds they will get for Cristiano Ronaldo. It is quite a U-turn for Old Trafford officials that they are now willing to sell Ronaldo to one of their biggest European rivals, especially as manager Alex Ferguson said earlier this season he "would not sell a virus" to the Spanish club.

Then again, they have probably grown impatient with the World and European Footballer of the Year, particularly after he again made his feelings known that he wants a move to Spain, the club he says he always dreamt of playing for. Questioning Ferguson's tactics after their Champions League final defeat by Barcelona last month would have also been hard for the Scot to stomach.

The world record transfer fee will certainly lessen the blow of losing Ronaldo although the tricky part is how they replace a player whose goals have underpinned three successive Premier League titles. Some of the game's biggest names are already being linked with a move to Old Trafford, although quite whether Ferguson gets to spend all the 80 million on players is unclear.

The club's American owners could decide that the most sensible option, given the world's current economic scenario, would be to use the fee to lessen the impact of the club's debt. The last available accounts show that United owe 69 million pounds in interest for this banking year alone.

That is almost the identical amount of profit the club are making on Ronaldo -- they paid Portugal's Sporting just 12.2 million pounds in 2003 -- so his sale could essentially help lessen this year's financial burden in one swoop. However, that move would undoubtedly provoke huge disappointment from United's fans who will want the money to be spent on maintaining their dominance on the pitch.

As a result, United's interest in Wigan Athletic midfielder Antonio Valencia is almost certainly going to be confirmed with a bid for the player for around 15 million pounds. In addition to Valencia, Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and Lyon ace Karim Benzema are also in United sights while Tottenham Hotspur winger Aaron Lennon is another who Alex Ferguson admires.

However, the overwhelming priority for most of United's fans will be for the club to finally sign the popular striker Carlos Tevez on a long-term deal. United paid 10 million pounds two seasons ago to have the Argentine on-loan but have stalled at paying the outstanding 22 million pounds to make the deal permanent.

However, that now looks like small change and the club may move quickly to keep Tevez - a view shared by former United striker Lou Macari. "I think they will now go for Tevez and Valencia," he told reporters on Thursday. "They have the money now and they can keep Tevez and that will keep supporters happy."

(source: reuters, Chris Brereton)


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