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Old 31st July 2006, 09:11   #1
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Default Waiting in the wings: Ronaldo's Old Trafford return will be dwarfed by new arrivals

Waiting in the wings
By James Ducker
Times July 31, 2006
Ronaldo's Old Trafford return will be dwarfed by new arrivals

CRISTIANO RONALDO WILL RETURN to Manchester United this morning for the first time since being vilified for his unsavoury antics during England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Portugal. The public response is likely to be intense and, if the police’s worst fears are realised, unpleasant, but until the country stops trying to find a scapegoat for the national team’s failings in Germany and the hysteria dies down, the maligned winger will have to put up with being Public Enemy No 1 again.
His reunion with Wayne Rooney aside — which, while frosty, is unlikely to generate the fireworks that every man and his dog has been predicting — Ronaldo could actually find himself playing second fiddle in the news stakes as Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, steps up his pursuit of new recruits.

Michael Carrick will complete his £16 million move from Tottenham Hotspur today, provided that he passes a medical, and his arrival could be followed in the next 72 hours by that of another midfield player, Marcos Senna, of Villarreal, after United were apparently warned off Javier Mascherano during a busy weekend of negotiations. Having pursued other targets for most of the summer, United were understood to have rekindled their interest in Mascherano during the past week, but having been quoted a fee in excess of £20 million by the Argentina midfield player’s club, Corinthians, Ferguson turned his attention to Senna.

Villarreal are said to want about £8 million for Senna, who featured for Spain in the World Cup finals despite being born in Brazil, although with only a year left on his contract at El Madrigal, United will be hopeful of getting him for half that figure.

A swoop for a replacement for Ruud van Nistelrooy, however, is by no means guaranteed, with Ferguson having hinted on a number of occasions that he may start the season with the five strikers he already has at his disposal, even though Fernando Torres, the Atlético Madrid and Spain forward, remains on the Scot’s radar. “We’re working on one or two things so hopefully something will happen in the next few days,” Ferguson said at the weekend.

Ferguson’s interest in Senna was revealed in The Times last month, but a deal was dependent on the Spanish club first finding a replacement, which they have now done after reaching an agreement last week with Vélez Sarsfield for Leandro Somoza, the 25-year-old Argentine midfield player.

Senna is a holding midfield player who could complement the more natural attacking instincts of Carrick, but while his arrival would be welcomed at Old Trafford given the shortage of options in midfield, at 30 he is more of a stop-gap than a long-term successor to the departed Roy Keane.

Mascherano, who so impressed for Argentina during the World Cup finals despite only turning 22 last month, or Mahamadou Diarra, the 25-year-old Lyons and Mali midfield player, fit that particular bill, although the longer United delay a move for a player of that calibre, the stiffer the competition they are likely to face.

Chelsea have also expressed an interest in Mascherano, whom José Mourinho views as a long-term replacement for Claude Makelele, and given their strong working relationship with Corinthians and vast resources, would almost certainly be favourites to sign the player before United. Diarra, meanwhile, is coveted by AC Milan and Real Madrid.

Senna is not without baggage, either. His career has been blighted by persistent knee problems and he served a three-month suspension during the 2004-05 season with Villarreal after traces of a banned substance were found during a routine doping test, although he impressed Ferguson while playing against United in the Champions League last season and has improved markedly with age.

Of greater interest than Ronaldo’s reunion with Rooney, whom the Portugal winger was accused of helping to get sent off at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, may be Ferguson’s reaction to the player, who has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave Old Trafford this summer, only apparently to be talked round into staying by his mother.

Ronaldo will not feature in a friendly against Macclesfield Town at Moss Rose tonight, but Rooney is expected to play the first half in what will be the forward’s first game since he was sent off for England and his first appearance for United since breaking his metatarsal against Chelsea on April 29.

Carrick, meanwhile, should make his debut against FC Porto in the LG Amsterdam Tournament on Friday.,00.html
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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