Belfast Telegraph

United boss is playing it cool as Ronaldo rumours grow

By Graham Chase

Louis van Gaal has done little to dampen speculation about Manchester United's interest in re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo but concedes Real Madrid will have little interest in selling the world player of the year.

Ronaldo, 29, spent six years at Old Trafford before leaving for the Spanish capital in a world record £80 million deal in 2009.

United were strongly linked with a move for the Portuguese just over a year ago but Ronaldo ultimately signed a new five-year deal at the Bernabeu.

Now there is renewed talk of a move, with former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon suggesting that Ronaldo is "fed up" following the departures of Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso, following his frustration at seeing Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil move on in recent years.

United spent in the region of £150m in the summer, including a British record deal to sign Di Maria and a loan move for Monaco's Radamel Falcao but a move for Ronaldo could cost as much as the £80 million they received for him five years ago, as well as huge wages.

Asked about the speculation, the Dutchman said: "Yes but it's always a discussion in the papers and I don't think the media shall buy Ronaldo.

"When it is possible, what I said with Falcao, players like Ronaldo give a lot extra to selection or to a team but I don't think Real Madrid shall sell him."

Senior figures at United have maintained they are willing to back Van Gaal in the transfer market despite their big summer spending.

And executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward spoke positively about United's finances recently despite the club's failure to qualify for the Champions League.

The signings of Falcao, Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind have increased competition within the United squad.

The new arrivals have also enabled Van Gaal to change his formation.

United started the season with a 3-4-1-2 system, but Van Gaal played 4-4-2 during the 4-0 win over QPR and his long-term aim is to get the team playing 4-3-3.

Van Gaal has an envious problem in trying to fit the likes of Falcao, Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata into his starting XI.

Only Rooney seems to be safe from being dropped.

"Only the captain has more privileges," Van Gaal said.

"No other player has privileges. There are always players we put in the line-up – my captain shall always play."

Van Persie, who is yet to score this season, could be the most vulnerable because of Falcao's arrival.

Van Gaal denies having both players in his squad causes problems though.

"I don't think that Falcao interfered with Van Persie or Van Persie interfered with Falcao," the former Holland coach said.

"I think Falcao is a very good striker. I also said when he was coming in his first press conference that I like Van Persie also.

"Then we have Rooney and Januzaj and we have (James) Wilson. We have five players for the two striker positions."

Van Gaal looks set to stick with four at the back for tomorrow's game at Leicester, where he hopes to register his second win as United boss.

Chris Smalling is available for the trip after he recovered from a groin strain.

Meanwhile, Leicester boss Nigel Pearson feels United have got their "swagger" back ahead of their Premier League clash tomorrow.

The Foxes chief admits Van Gaal's side are starting to click after they kick-started their season against QPR last week after a troubled start which saw them lose to Swansea and suffer a 4-0 humiliation at MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.

But Pearson insisted United have begun their road to recovery ahead of their clash at the King Power Stadium.

He said: "United look like they have a swagger back, they have added quality. Whenever there is a change in manager you can have people who have a short-term impact.

"When you have someone in charge for as long as Sir Alex (Ferguson) the transition period will never be easy.

"They have been a huge presence within the English game for a long time. I'm sure they'll reignite at some point."

Leicester have impressed on their return to the Premier League after a decade away, drawing at home to Everton and Arsenal before their opening win at Stoke last week.

They earned plaudits in a narrow defeat at Chelsea and Pearson wants his side to maintain their momentum.

He said: "We can't be happy with what we've done so far. I don't know what system they (United) will play.

"We have to get our preparation right and try to not get wrapped up in the occasion."

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