Sir Alex Ferguson last night lost his biggest ally in the battle to keep Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United after Carlos Queiroz quit to become Portugal boss.
Ferguson's right-hand man at Old Trafford for all but one of the last six years, Queiroz has agreed a four-year contract with the Portuguese Football Federation to succeed new Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Queiroz was instrumental in bringing Ronaldo to Old Trafford in 2003 as well as the club's other recruits from Portuguese football, Anderson and Nani, last summer.
His departure removes a crucial link between United and Ronaldo, who covets a move to Real Madrid. Queiroz will now manage the winger at international level, but whether he is still as committed to dissuading him from moving on remains to be seen.
He certainly has his own horror story to tell, having spent one unhappy season as Real boss in 2003-04 before returning to United as Ferguson's number two.
But, after four successful years at Old Trafford, he now feels the time is again right to strike out on his own.
"I am very proud and honoured to be able to come back and serve my country," said Queiroz.
"It is a very special challenge and a position that any professional would want."