You can only imagine how rubbish we would have felt going in to this long break for the World Cup, had Alejandro Garnacho not popped up with that fantastic late winner against Fulham. Within hours of the final whistle, we were greeted with the disappointing news that Cristiano Ronaldo had given an exlcusive to Piers Morgan and The Sun to drag the club and manager through the mud.
In this interview, he has claimed that he’s being forced out of the club by new manager Erik ten Hag and that he feels betrayed.
Hearing this had me scratching my head, because presumably to be forced out of somewhere, you have to want to be there in the first place. It had been well documented this summer that Jorge Mendes had been trying to find a new home for Ronaldo, but no club, other than Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, were reportedly interested in paying his salary demands.
I had presumed we had seen Ronaldo in a United shirt for the last time before the season even started and liked the romance behind the idea of him returning to Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese side we’d signed him from all those years ago after he had ripped John O’Shea a new one in a pre-season friendly.
We had no Champions League football on offer, so understood his desire to keep scoring goals in his favoured competition, with the clock ticking on his career. Ronaldo is rich beyond belief, he could play for free for his final years and it wouldn’t make a difference to his bank balance. Why wouldn’t he take a huge pay cut and return as a hero to Sporting Lisbon, to play in an easy group and see out his European career on a high?
But no deal was forthcoming and so he stayed put, with questions already being asked how he was going to fit in to Ten Hag’s style of play.
Ronaldo missed the pre-season tour and in every press conference Ten Hag was flooded with questions about his absence. If the manager wasn’t keen on him, you’d never know it, as he always insisted he was looking forward to working with him and that they had been on the phone to each other, even in the player’s absence.
He is not with us, and it is due to personal reasons. We are planning with Cristiano Ronaldo for this season. That’s it and I’m looking forward to working with him. Cristiano is not for sale. Cristiano is in our plans and we want to get success together. I had a good conversation with him. I had a really good talk. [The conversation] is between Cristiano and me. But what I can confirm is we had a really good conversation together.
With Ronaldo mourning the loss of one child, and caring for a sick daughter, he eventually returned for a friendly against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford. He was substituted at half-time and left the stadium before the end of the game. It was clearly unacceptable, but he wasn’t the only player to do it, and Ten Hag came out in defence of Ronaldo when the press encouraged him to be critical.
Those who left, there were many players who left but the spotlight is on Cristiano and that’s not right, so I think, do your research.
He was asked how he felt about going in to the new season with Ronaldo in the squad, given he didn’t fit Ten Hag’s typical player to lead the line, but he was again on Team Ronaldo.
I’m really happy. I had told you before, we planned with him for the season. We have a top striker and I’m really happy he’s here, he’s in the squad and we stick to the plan.
Ronaldo was left out of the starting XI for the opening games of the Premier League campaign, given he was still not match fit, but was still regularly brought off the bench to build up his sharpness.
His first goal of the season came after eight appearances, in the Europa League, when he found the back of the net from the penalty spot against Sheriff Tiraspol. Anthony Martial had picked up yet another injury, unsurprisingly, meaning that Ronaldo became a regular starter. His next goal was an important one, the winner away to relegation fighters Everton a few weeks later, but it was already becoming noticeable that United looked a better side without him. Gone had the time when he relied on him to get us a win, but rather we were starting to accommodate him, with his lack of willingness to press and often wayward shooting.
There were some nerves ahead of our game against Tottenham Hotspur, who were level on points with second placed City at the time, but we won the game comfortably, easily the better side. With Ten Hag attempting to learn his lesson from a few weeks earlier, when he failed to bring Ronaldo on for the final minutes against City, he signalled for Ronaldo to warm up.
Unbelievably, Ronaldo refused to play and stomped off the pitch, ignoring the children who were reaching out their hands for a high five at the tunnel. For the second time in a couple of months, he left the stadium.
Ten Hag obviously couldn’t start him in our next game against Chelsea, which left us short of attacking options with Martial still injured, but thanks to an injury time Casemiro header, we managed to leave Stamford Bridge with a point.
Ronaldo took to social media, and without actually apologising for his disrespectful behaviour, acknowledged that he hadn’t set the right example to younger players with his actions on the day of the Spurs game.
Ten Hag would have been within his rights to keep Ronaldo out of the team for longer, but clearly wanting to bury the hatchet and move on, he was reintroduced to the starting line-up for the following game against Sheriff. This is where he scored his third and final goal of the season (so far?).
Since then, Ronaldo has even captained the side, which seemed bizarre to me. After the disrespect Ronaldo had shown to his teammates, manager and fans, it didn’t feel necessary to go overboard and give him the captain’s armband so soon. But this is further evidence of Ten Hag trying to appease Ronaldo.
So for him to then go on the telly and criticise the manager is totally unbelievable and entirely lacking of class. Who on earth does he think he is? His suggestion that he is the one being betrayed after the way he has behaved over the past few months, when the club and manager have done nothing but accommodate his temper tantrums, is laughably ironic.
This season, Ronaldo has averaged a goal for roughly every six hours he’s been on the pitch, playing for the full 90 minutes against the likes of Real Sociedad, Omonoia Nicosia, Aston Villa and West Ham without finding the back of the net. While he doesn’t suit Ten Hag’s tactics, you could understand the desire to play him if he was still clinical in front of goal.
Still, taking all of this in to consideration, I don’t regret bringing back Ronaldo, and the only disappointment is that he didn’t leave in the summer.
With the transfer window near to closing in the summer of 2021, all the reports suggested that Ronaldo was going to be unveiled as a City player, having already decided to leave Juventus.
While it was clear the Portuguese forward’s best days were behind him, he’d still managed 30+ goals in the two previous seasons and could provide City with the winning experience and mentality to guide them to elusive success in Europe. But it wasn’t the thought of our local rivals landing a quality player that was upsetting us, rather the vision of a player who’d won numerous titles and the Champions League in our red shirt scoring goals for the blues at the Etihad. We’d never hear the end of it.
Their fancammers were SUIIIIing all over the internet, their delight even surpassing that of when they thought Kaka and Wayne Rooney were signing for them.
The morning it was revealed he was signing for us, I got a text letting me know he was United bound. I could hardly believe it, especially considering all the journalists were still writing about him going to City. Rio Ferdinand had taken to Twitter to cast some doubt on the City link, but I still couldn’t quite believe we’d end up pulling the rug out from under City. The way they had been carrying on, only to find out he’d snubbed them, was unbelievable. The relief was huge. The thought of him lifting the European Cup in the blue of City was sickening.
Still, Ronaldo hadn’t been part of the plan and the club’s hand had been forced. While the transfer didn’t fit with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans for a continued rebuild, having finished third and then second in the table in the previous two seasons, the deal was greeted with great anticipation from United fans.
And even though last season was a write off for United, it was a decent one for Ronaldo personally, with him finishing the campaign as United’s top scorer with 24 goals. He was the third highest scorer in the league too, only being outscored by Mo Salah and Son Heung-min.
But this season has been a different story, with time finally taking its toll on one of the greatest to ever play the game, and the team suffering as a result. The situation grew close to humiliating away to Omonoia Nicosia, with his teammates turning themselves inside out, setting him up with one opportunity after another to score his 700th career goal, only for him to fluff it every time. United went on to finish second in the group, resulting in a play-off fixture against Barcelona, on goal difference. Would it have been a different story if Martial had remained fit? Or if Ronaldo had left in the summer?
Since the news hit of Ronaldo’s interview, with Morgan releasing short clips of what was to come, social media flooded with Ronaldo fanboys jumping to his defence, claiming he merely has high standards and is right to call out the club’s deteriorating facilities. But the poor state of the club isn’t news to anyone. Ten Hag has already begun the work behind the scenes and wholesale changes have been made in regards to the decision makers. The club had been allowed to rot thanks to the Glazers and the new manager is addressing that. Ronaldo’s critical interview isn’t doing us any favours and to suggest it’s anything but self-serving is ridiculous.
What we would have given for a player to speak out in this way before, for the sake of the club, but we all know that’s impossible. Solskjaer joined MUST after he left the club, Eric Cantona has been vocal, and Gary Neville and co. have joined the calls for the Glazers to go in recent years, but to expect any player at any club to come out and bash the owners is unrealistic.
Had Ronaldo done this when he first signed, before he had an axe to grind, it would have been huge. But now it’s just a parting shot, as he looks to force the club to pay off his contract.
If United still relied upon Ronaldo, his refusal to play and willingness to throw the new manager under the bus would have been devastating. But as it is, while it’s disappointing seeing him tarnish his reputation and relationship with the club, there won’t be many at Old Trafford who are upset about the prospect of him having played his final game for us. This may be something that the fans crying on social media find hard to believe, but for those who think the club is bigger than any player, it’s just common sense.
The biggest frustration is that he will likely leave the club and there are no guarantees the Glazers will sanction the funds for a replacement in January. With Martial seemingly made out of glass, Marcus Rashford unreliable as a no.9 and no other obvious candidates to call upon, we will be incredibly thin up top when Ronaldo goes.
Still, even with the options we currently have in the squad, Antony and Jadon Sancho have as many goals as Ronaldo this season, but in considerably less playing time. Martial has four goals in seven appearances, a goal every 70 minutes, and Rashford’s tally more than doubles Ronaldo’s. Garnacho is the lad we are pinning our hopes on from out wide, with him bagging four goals and assists in the last fortnight alone!
If Ronaldo had more honest people in his entourage he would have been told that his behaviour this season, typified by the recent interview, is entirely unacceptable. He’s embarrassing himself and it’s sad to see. The fact he doesn’t recognise that the decay and poor decision making is illustrated perfectly by the club’s decision to sign him again in 2021 shows his lack of self awareness.
At his peak, he could get away with this sort of behaviour more easily. He attempted to spoil the summer following the league and European Cup win in 2008, flirting with Real Madrid publicly whenever given the opportunity. Remember the World Cup, when playing in Portugal’s white strip, he proclaimed post-match that he “loved to play in white”, with reports of a move to Real Madrid imminent. But Fergie begged him for one more season and he obliged.
Ronaldo’s belief that Ten Hag, or the manager of any top club, should bend over backwards for him now is entirely delusional. What’s his plan? Who does he think will pay his astronomical wages? Which club will be keen to deal with his evident lack of professionalism for the return of a handful of goals? It’s not 2008 anymore.
Following the famous fall out with David Beckham, Ferguson was clear no player was bigger than the club, and the legendary winger was sold to Real Madrid as a result.
“The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go,” Ferguson later reflected.
Ronaldo’s first stint was unbelievable, with him helping us win the title three years on the bounce, the Champions League, and other domestic trophies along the way. Last season, he still produced his moments, scoring plenty of goals against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.
And we’ll always be grateful for that. You can’t take away the magical times he’s given the club because of a few months of bizarre behaviour and poor performances. We sang his name, twirling our scarves in the air, even when he played against us for different sides. We absolutely adored him at Old Trafford. He made his mark here and will forever be in our history books. But his time at the club has to end now.
So thanks for everything Ronnie lad, you’ve given us some of the best moments of our lives, but off you pop now. No one is bigger than this club, not even you.