Cristiano Ronaldo said that he feels “betrayed” by Manchester United and that he is being forced out of the club. He also feels that he has been treated like a ”black sheep” and has pointed the figure of blame at almost everybody surrounding the club – from team-mates, former players, bosses, and the media.
In an interview given to British journalist Piers Morgan which will be aired on the Talk TV channel in two parts later this week, the striker has come out with both guns blazing. And whilst, there is now the World Cup and he will be away with the Portugal side in Qatar, it is hard to see him playing for the Premier League side ever again.
Bridges have been well and truly burned.
Ronaldo is not stupid
Perhaps that was the intention in the first place. Ronaldo is not stupid and knew that the interview would make headlines all over the world. He is intensely conscious of his public image and brand, and is surrounded by advisors who would have known what he planned to say in advance.
This is tantamount to forcing a move out of United in January, knowing after all that few at the club will attempt to stand in his way.
It was not meant to be this way
This was not how it was meant to be when United re-signed Ronaldo from Juventus in the summer of 2020. The club had finished the previous season second in the league to Manchester rivals City and had been beaten in the final of the Europa League.
It was felt that signing Ronaldo and the goals he brings would help them mount a credible title challenge under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even if there was also a sense that they did not want City to sign him either.
Things though did not go as planned. After a difficult start to the season, Solskjaer was sacked in mid-November and the club brought in Ralf Rangnick as interim manager. He failed to bring about any substantive improvement and the club finished a disappointing sixth in the table.
Erik ten Hag was brought in from Ajax at the end of last season and immediately began to change United’s style of play, making them a side that presses from the front – not something suited to the game of Ronaldo’s 37-year-old legs.
After the club made a poor start to the season, Ronaldo found himself confined to the bench and has only featured periodically since.
Last month, he was dropped by ten Hag for their visit to Chelsea after refusing to come on as a late substitute against Tottenham a few days earlier, choosing to head down the tunnel instead whilst the game was still in progress.
He missed their last game of the season before the World Cup against Fulham with an unspecified illness.
What he said
On his bosses
Whilst he has nothing but respect for Solskjaer, he was considerably less diplomatic about his two successors.
Whilst Rangnick had built his reputation in Germany and counts the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel among his admirers, Ronaldo claimed “I’d never even heard of him” and added ” If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United?”
On Ten Hag
His criticism of ten Hag is even more damning, saying “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me. If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
Former team-mates have also attracted his ire, including Wayne Rooney who has been outspoken in his criticism of the striker for months, and has called for United to get rid of him. Ronaldo says:
“I don’t know why he criticises me so badly, probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at high level.”
“I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true.”
Ronaldo insists that he continues to love the club, but claims that has been “no evolution” at Old Trafford since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. And that Ferguson, who is still part of the board and one of the men responsible for convincing him to return, knows this as well.
‘If they want to do things differently, they have to change, many, many things. He knows better than anybody that the club is not on the path they deserve to be.”
No way back
Whilst United have yet to publicly comment on what Ronaldo has says, it is clear that there can be no future at Old Trafford for United. If ten Hag is to command the respect of the dressing room, he cannot afford to have him in and around the squad any longer.
He is still under contract until next June, but some accommodation needs to be found to end that arrangement sooner rather than later.
United fans split
United fans are probably split over what Ronaldo has said. Whilst some will believe that he has been disloyal in airing dirty laundry in public, there are probably equally as many who feel that the club has slipped since the heyday of Ferguson and that Ronaldo’s jibes are not only valid, but needed saying.
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