Don’t mention the ‘R’ word, Madrid - United will blank Real
chief if he asks about Ronaldo

Manchester United are ready to embarrass Real Madrid in front of Europe's top clubs if the Spanish outfit attempt to hijack a meeting of football's major power brokers tomorrow with a £70million bid for Cristiano Ronaldo.

United's usually diplomatic chief executive David Gill is prepared to blank his Real counterpart Ramon Calderon rather than get sucked into a conversation about the future of United's Portugal superstar.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Don't mention the Spanish: Cristiano Ronaldo

Gill, who is also fighting hard to keep Sir Alex Ferguson's No2, Carlos Queiroz, at Old Trafford, will come face-to-face with Calderon tomorrow at a convention of Europe's biggest clubs. It will be their first meeting since United reported Real to FIFA for their dogged pursuit of Ronaldo.

While Gill will not try to avoid Calderon, any bid for an attempt to converse about Ronaldo will lead to Real being given the cold shoulder. A United source said yesterday: 'We won't behave like children. David will shake hands with Calderon and they will be there to work together on different aspects of the game. But if he attempts to talk about Ronaldo, it will be an extremely short conversation. Our position has been the same as day one. Ronaldo is not for sale.'

Sources in Spain have suggested that Real will choose the first meeting of the new European Clubs' Association (ECA) in Nyon, France, to formalise their interest in the player with a bid. But such a move will risk an anti-Real backlash.

ECA chief and former Germany legend Karlheinz Rummenigge has already spoken about his concern of one member club attempting to poach a player from another. And Europe's big clubs are keen not to be distracted as they try to talk about other important issues in the game, including future Champions League revenues and compensation for injuries sustained on international duty.

While Gill is at the two-day meeting, he may hear whether his attempts to keep Queiroz at the club have been successful. Queiroz has been given a generous counter-offer by United to try to dissuade him from succeeding Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager of Portugal.

Such is the high regard United's hierarchy has for Queiroz, they would keep him on the shortlist to succeed Ferguson even if he takes the Portugal job. But until Queiroz decides, Gill is pulling out all the stops to keep him at Old Trafford, where he has been an influential part of United's success and a father figure to Ronaldo and Nani. United, though, insist Ronaldo's future has nothing to do with what Queiroz decides. 'Ronaldo gets on well with everybody at the club, not just the assistant manager,' said the source. 'What happens to Queiroz is incidental to the player's situation.'

Queiroz is the only person mentioned publicly by Gill as a candidate to succeed Ferguson. The 66-year-old United boss has said he will not do more than three more seasons at Old Trafford 'at the very, very most'.

Ferguson underlined that regard when he brought Queiroz back to United after the 55-year-old left for an abortive year as Madrid coach in 2003. Ferguson's high regard for Queiroz is shared in the boardroom but there is no chance of the club offering any longterm commitment at this stage and the ball is very much in United's court. Meanwhile, Ronaldo's apparent desire to join Madrid might be damaged by the club's campaign to have their keeper, Iker Casillas, crowned European and world player of the year.

Ronaldo desperately wants to win the top international award, so he will not be impressed by Real's website and TV stations imploring fans to email and phone in with messages of support for their man.

Casillas followed up winning a second consecutive La Liga title with Madrid by captaining Spain to Euro 2008 glory.

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