United fans won't panic despite loss of prize pair

Manchester United have lost two of their best players in Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

But there has been no hysterical reactions from fans. More new signings like Antonio Valencia would be welcomed, but there isn’t panic on the streets of Denton, Didsbury or Moss Side.

Sir Alex Ferguson has built up such a vast bank of credit that fans would look foolish if they started questioning the playing side of the club.

Ferguson had continually proved doubters wrong and the obdurate Glaswegian would gain great satisfaction from doing it again. 

United are linked with big names every day, dull agent-led talk. Papers believe it whets fans’ appetites and expectations, but such is the unreliability it merely grates.

United fans have wasted too much time in past summers fretting about whether Alan Shearer would arrive or Ronaldo would leave.

Most have learned to know better and trust the manager. He knows best and he’ll bring in who he thinks is right for the club.

"Well if you're going..." 

He’s more likely to identify young emerging talents than go for the franchise-style players Real Madrid are distorting the market for.

Ferguson’s obsession is winning football matches, not pumping up expectations, creating illusions and grand egotistical projects.

Ronaldo wanted to leave, something his team mates and manager knew well. He was an outstanding talent in his six years at Old Trafford.

But like for most players from south of Marseille, Real Madrid and Barcelona have a far bigger pull than United or Liverpool, just as the two English giants have a bigger sway in Scandinavia.

Ronaldo’s left one club which has had the same manager since 1986 for one which has worked through eight coaches in five years.

Madrid’s new coach, Manuel Pellegrini, is top level, but he won’t have the control of Ferguson and I’m sure Ronaldo will miss the stability and discipline which Ferguson offers.

Ronaldo will also be closer to home. Manchester to Madeira takes 10 hours allowing for the two necessary connections. From Madrid it’s half that.

One significant factor about the move is that it is the first time since Mark Hughes left Old Trafford for Barcelona in 1986 that United have lost a player they wanted to keep. The first time Ferguson has lost a player he wanted to stay.

Beckham and Van Nistelrooy both left for the Bernabéu when Ferguson decided they weren’t in his plans. Ronaldo was, but what was the point of keeping a player who didn’t want to be there? 

Ronaldo also had a point when he said he wanted a fresh challenge. He’s won everything there is to win at Old Trafford and can see great opportunities to make his mark in Madrid.

He’s gone and Ferguson will have access to the larger part of the £80 million fee to compensate for the rejection.

"Savour the moment Ruud... it'll be your last" 

History will remember Ronaldo as a great United player. His self-confidence could be misplaced for arrogance, his posturing pretention, but if you wanted a player to score a key goal in Rome or Oporto, he was the man.

United fans have idolised Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Eric Cantona, but the wider footballing community always denied these United heroes the ultimate accolade.

Ronaldo achieved that when he was voted European Player of the Year for 2008. The Madeiran thus did something that no United player has managed since George Best 40 years ago.

We’d be bitter not to wish him well, but it’s in Sir Alex Ferguson, not Cristiano Ronaldo, that United fans trust.

Jordi Cruyff always said that when he played for Manchester United he felt like he was the tail of an elephant. Whereas when he played at Alaves or Celta Vigo he felt like the head.

Carlos Tevez was not satisfied with being a leg which never stopped moving and kicking, so he’ll move to be the arse of a big white (and laser blue) elephant. 

I liked Tevez. I interviewed him in Durban last summer and he was sound. He was United’s man of the match in Moscow against Chelsea, but what matters is Ferguson’s opinion.

If he doesn’t think that he’s worth the fee, he knows the market better than any supporter.

He’s made unpopular decisions before, like selling Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis and Jaap Stam. He’s usually been vindicated.  

Backed by a now finely honed scouting team, Ferguson has consistently identified the right talents and rebuilt United teams without anyone having the time to pause and talk about transition.   

From emerging but established players such as Patrice Evra, Anderson and Ronaldo himself, to scores of youngsters from Paul Scholes to Federico Macheda, Ferguson gets it right.

"I love it when a plan comes together" 

Others will follow and there’s far more satisfaction in watching a player develop and thrive under Ferguson than seeing top name internationals like Juan Sebastian Veron or Laurent Blanc perform sporadically.

A Spanish friend spoke to Rafa Benitez several years ago. In private, Benitez had correctly identified a player  who he thought would become the best centre half in Europe, but Liverpool were reluctant to sanction the funds to buy him.

He was called Nemanja Vidic.

It’s in that market, not the tabloid market, which Ferguson will be currently working hard.

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