Sir Alex Ferguson has today revealed the details of the conversation which lead to Cristiano Ronaldo being sold to Real Madrid.

“Ronaldo was sold simply because the boy wanted to leave,” said Ferguson. “I did well to keep him another year. When we sat down, you could see it in his eyes. He said: ‘Boss, I just want to play for Real Madrid, it’s nothing against Manchester United. I’m going to go because it will be an experience for me.’ The only reason he was sold was because the boy fervently wanted to leave. He played that extra season, did fantastically for us, and after the Cup final [against Barcelona] came to me and said: ‘Boss, I want to leave.’ I said: ‘Right, you’ve done another year, let me consider it.’ The next day an offer came in for £80m.”

Since leaving, Cristiano Ronaldo has had nothing but positive things to say about the club. Earlier this week he revealed that he may return to United after his contract with Real Madrid is up. Our manager revealed today that he is still in regular contact with our former star.

“I got a text from him last week saying: ‘I miss you so much’,” said Ferguson. “I’d texted him to say happy birthday. He was 24. And he said he missed me, and ‘thanks for all the kind things you’re saying about me’. You ­appreciate things like that. He had six years with me. We have to be grateful because he was a fantastic lad. Great lad. Popular in the dressing room, popular with the staff, and he made a great contribution to Manchester United. If he was going to leave, we made sure we got the best deal we could. We thought the structure of the club was good, with young players about the place, and players likely to improve. It’s like everything else: when a great player comes along, and then a great player leaves, there has to be a loss to a degree that you don’t realise until that loss is on your toes. And it was a loss, a major loss, but we have compensated in some ways. We’ve actually scored more goals this season than we did last year.”

These quotes come from an exclusive interview with Sir Alex Ferguson to mark the relaunch of The Observer.