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How do you save a problem like Ronaldo?

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? Okay, too cheesy. I’ll stop now.

The Daily Mail reports this morning that Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill are more determined than ever that our winger will not be playing anywhere but Old Trafford this season.

It emerged last night that United have been contacted by several leading European clubs – including Spanish giants Barcelona – urging them to make a stand against the rise of player power by resisting Ronaldo’s demands to be sold to Real Madrid.

United are now more determined than ever to send out the right message to the rest of their own playing squad by refusing point blank to give in to a player they feel has tried to engineer a move in the worst possible way.

According to senior United sources, Gill in particular is livid with Ronaldo and the manner in which the Portugal star first tried to bully the club into giving him a new £150,000- a-week contract and – when that failed – then attempted to bulldoze his way to Madrid.

This has made the United chief only more determined to keep the player, who has risen from anonymity to world stardom since arriving at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.

A United source said: ‘David’s position mirrors that of the manager. The fact is that Ronaldo will not be sold this summer. Real Madrid can offer what they want. It won’ t happen. This whole business has infuriated everybody at the club and it is very much seen as a point of principle now. If Ronaldo is allowed to leave then what message does it send out to the rest of the squad? We would have chaos on our hands.’

If what the Daily Mail is reporting today is accurate, I admire the club’s determination; since this sad saga began, I’ve thought a time-out in the naughty corner would be the best remedy for the petulant child.

Other club managers will certainly be watching as events unfold – applauding even, if the United management sticks to its guns and forces Ronaldo to see out his contract (or at least to remain at Old Trafford until Sir Alex is good and ready to sell him.)

And it won’t be just the big European clubs who are interested spectators. One of those watching will be Alex McLeish, who is facing his own battle to keep James McFadden at relegated Birmingham City.

But realistically, do we want to keep a truculent player in the squad? And furthermore, a batallion of lawyers will claim that it is not legally possible – that forcing Cristiano to play in the reserves, for example, would be potentially damaging to his career. They’ll dig out Bosman and Webster and dissect those rulings and file motions while happily billing thousands of pounds.

I honestly don’t know how to solve this problem. What I do know is that Cristiano Ronaldo is casting a huge shadow over what should have been a summer spent gloriously basking in the sunshine glinting off of two massive trophies. However this crisis unfolds, for that, I cannot forgive.