MANCHESTER, England (AFP) - Carlos Tevez may make a rare Manchester United start in Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Aalborg.
But the Argentina striker is unlikely to interpret selection for a fixture of little consequence as a sign that his stay at Old Trafford is set to be extended beyond the end of this season.
For United, a victory over the Danish champions will almost certainly ensure they edge out Villarreal for top spot in group E, although their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has made it clear he regards the advantage gained from being seeded for the last 16 draw as minimal.
For Tevez, the stakes are arguably just as low. Ferguson has repeatedly said he regards the little Argentinian as a valued member of his squad but the Scot's actions of late have suggested otherwise.
Four goals in the League Cup against Blackburn last week proved insufficient to earn Tevez a starting slot in Saturday's Premier League match against Sunderland, and United's manager admitted last month that talks aimed at signing the striker on a permanent basis have stalled.
That confession was quickly followed by reports in Spain suggesting that Tevez would be a Real Madrid player next season, after his current two-year loan deal at United expires.
Each year of the loan has cost United five million pounds and the English and European champions have been quoted a further 22 million pounds to buy Tevez from MSI, a group of South American investors to whom the player is contracted.
That looks expensive given that Tevez has fallen behind summer signing Dimitar Berbatov in United's pecking order with Ferguson regarding the Bulgarian as a better foil for Wayne Rooney.
And doubts about whether the club's American owners will, in these cash-strapped times, be willing to finance a permanent deal for Tevez have been further fuelled by the resurfacing of speculation linking Ferguson with a move for Karim Benzema, the Lyon forward regarded as potentially the biggest star to emerge from French football since Zinedine Zidane.
Benzema is only 20 and would come with such a huge price tag that a permanent deal for Tevez would be almost certainly excluded.
Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be rested on Wednesday after suffering a hip injury in the win over Sunderland.
Wayne Rooney looks certain to feature however after collecting his fifth booking of the season on Saturday, ensuring he will miss the weekend trip to Tottenham through suspension.
Despite Aalborg's defeat of Celtic last month, United will expect to win with something to spare after strolling to a 3-0 victory over the Danes on their own ground in October.
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