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Football: UNITED TURN HEAT ON RON.

Byline: By DAVID MADDOCK

MANCHESTER UNITED have turned the screw in their attempts to pressure Cristiano Ronaldo to stay as talks over the winger's future remain unresolved.

Mirror Sport understands that Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes has now spoken twice to chief executive David Gill - and reiterated his client's desire to leave England.

But United assistant boss Carlos Quieroz insisted last night he expects his Portuguese countryman to honour the four years remaining on his contract at Old Trafford.

Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have expressed an interest in the controversial winger, and Mendes has explained there is a simple route out of the club if United are prepared to sell. Ronaldo believes he will be under intense pressure playing in England because of the explosive fall out from the World Cup when he was accused of getting Wayne Rooney sent off. But in reality he first indicated his desire to leave some months ago.

United know that if he maintains his stance there is little they can do, but they will not give up without a fight and are exerting as much pressure on the 21-year-old as possible.

At the very least they want to force the price up - and ensure that the winger puts in a written transfer request, thereby losing out on up to pounds 2million in bonuses.

And Quieroz (below) stuck rigidly to that line last night when he said: "Is Cristiano staying? No doubt. Everybody knows during this period of the season there is some speculation. But we keep cool.

"Those players (Ronaldo and defender Gabriel Heinze) are part of our family," "I have spoken to Ronaldo every day and there are no problems with him.

I have no doubt he will continue to play for us this coming season and beyond that.""

The youngster wants the situation resolved before he is due to return to training at the end of the month, and preferably before the weekend.

United, though, have told him during talks that nothing will be concluded while Ferguson is on tour with his team in South Africa, and they want the player to go away to think seriously about the implications of demanding a move.

Both sides are playing a game of brinkmanship - but in the meantime Ferguson is scouring Europe for replacements.

He sees Marseille's World Cup finalist Franck Ribery as a potential right-sided replacement for Ronaldo.

And sources suggested yesterday that United are keenly following the situation at both Juventus and AC Milan, who face relegation over bribery allegations.

Ferguson is a keen admirer of Juve's Patrick Vieira - who he almost signed three years ago - and Rene Gattuso of AC Milan, and he looks certain to make a bid for one or the other should their teams face the ignominy of relegation.

Ferguson is also weighing up an increased offer for Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick, but is unsure about the London club's pounds 15m valuation.

On the way out of Old Trafford is Ruud van Nistelrooy, with Real Madrid last night claiming they are close to "total agreement" on an pounds 11million deal.

Rio Ferdinand shows off the new Man Utd home kit, celebrating 50 years since the birth of the Busby Babes (inset: Duncan Edwards). Available on pre-order from today and on sale on July 27 at www.nikefootball.com

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ANOTHER PRIZE: Cristiano Ronaldo clutches an award at a ceremony in Madeira yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2006
Words:566
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