Ronaldo speaks out: The key issues

Why has Cristiano Ronaldo spoken out now and what will his headline-grabbing interview mean for his future at Manchester United? We tackle the big talking points…

Why has Ronaldo spoken out now?

There is something ironic about the timing of Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive interview with Piers Morgan, given the news about the 37-year-old’s disgruntlements came just a matter of hours after Manchester United’s new young star Alejandro Garnacho had announced himself in the Premier League with a wonderful last-minute winner at Fulham.

Eighteen-year-old Garnacho is part of the club’s future. Ronaldo, an icon from the past and an increasingly fringe figure in the present, overshadowed the Argentinian’s big moment. United have worked hard to try to merge the two eras but this was a sharp contrast.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Fulham against Manchester United in the Premier League

Ultimately, this was a message Ronaldo wanted to issue with the Premier League now paused for the World Cup. The comments won’t immediately impact United’s performances on the pitch and, with Ronaldo on Portugal duty, there will be no awkward moments around the training ground, either – although his compatriots Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot will be with him in Qatar and his international colleagues may not appreciate their campaign being turned into the ‘Ronaldo show’.

This story will drive headlines and fan debate right through the World Cup and into the January transfer window, by which point Ronaldo will hope to have produced a reminder of his ability on the pitch on the world stage to either re-assert his standing at Old Trafford or advertise his talents to other suitors.

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In a 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan Uncensored on TalkTV, Cristiano Ronaldo claimed head coach Erik ten Hag and others want him out of Old Trafford

It’s understood Ronaldo was searching for an exit in the summer transfer window to a club which was playing Champions League football but no offers materialised. He has stoked speculation about his future once again ahead of the next transfer window.

Will Ronaldo play for Man Utd again?

Erik ten Hag, Cristiano Ronaldo
Image: Erik ten Hag has started Cristiano Ronaldo just four times in the Premier League this season

United are next in action when they take on Burnley in the Carabao Cup fourth round on December 20 before facing Nottingham Forest at home on Boxing Day and travelling to Wolves on New Year’s Eve. The January transfer window will then open and the possibility of Ronaldo leaving the club without pulling on the shirt again is on the table.

“Some people don’t want me here not only this year but last year too,” Ronaldo told Piers Morgan and his interview may encourage those people to try to facilitate an exit.

That would mean his final appearance for United would be the poor 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday November 6, with Ronaldo since missing the club’s last two fixtures with illness. He captained the team that day at Villa Park but was unable to add to his solitary strike in the top flight this term from four starts and six sub appearances. It would be an underwhelming ending.

There had been no indication United were looking to sell Ronaldo and the club never publicly aired any annoyance at Ronaldo trying to find a way out in the summer, with Ten Hag insisting the striker is part of his plans. But whether Ronaldo adds to his 346 appearances for the club will be dictated by United’s reaction to this latest development.

What are his alternatives?

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Jamie Carragher says Cristiano Ronaldo is craving attention he can’t get on the pitch and is trying to get sacked by the club

Ronaldo’s performance at the World Cup could be a key factor in where he’s playing football in 2023. If his recent struggles in front of goal for United continue – he’s scored three in 16 this term – then it is hard to imagine club’s rushing to put together the large financial package required to sign him.

A romantic return to his first club Sporting has been complicated by their failure to progress into the Champions League knockouts and current league position outside of the qualifying spots for next year’s competition, while there were no official offers in the summer when the likes of Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Chelsea were linked with a move.

If Ronaldo and United were to find some grounds to terminate his contract there may be more interest in a free transfer. But Ronaldo’s United deal runs until this summer and the club have an option to extend it by a further year if they wish.

What has Ten Hag done to disrespect him?

File photo dated 07-08-2022 of Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Cristiano Ronaldo. Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute against Tottenham. Issue date: Friday October 21, 2022.
Image: Ronaldo has one Premier League goal this season

One of the standout quotes from the interview was Ronaldo’s accusation against Ten Hag: “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t have respect for me.”

That’s a big change of stance from Ronaldo, who gave an interview to Man Utd back in June saying he was happy at the club and urged for Ten Hag to have time at Old Trafford following his arrival from Ajax.

“I was and still am very happy to be here,” Ronaldo said. “For me, the most important thing is to try to win the games and try to win some championship or some cup but I believe that Manchester will be where they belong. As I say before, sometimes it takes time but I still believe.”

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Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol has the latest on Cristiano Ronaldo’s future following his claims that he felt ‘betrayed’ by Manchester United

On Ten Hag’s appointment, he added: “I know he did a fantastic job for Ajax and that he’s an experienced coach but we need to give him time. Things need to change the way he wants. We are happy and excited, not only the players but the supporters as well. I wish him the best and let’s believe that next year we’re going to win trophies.”

So, what has changed? Are Ronaldo’s new jabs at Ten Hag now simply in reference to his lack of starts in the Premier League this season?

It’s not clear because, after all, this is a player who was given the captain’s armband soon after walking out of the team’s win over Tottenham before full-time. When United were thrashed at Manchester City, Ten Hag said he didn’t sub Ronaldo on “out of respect for his big career”.

United feel they have bent over backwards to accommodate Ronaldo and Ten Hag has always insisted the player is an important part of his plans.

What United have not done is indulge Ronaldo and guarantee him a starting spot. He was their top scorer last season but with Ten Hag now in charge the stats back up the Dutchman’s use of Ronaldo so far.

When Ronaldo doesn’t start in the Premier League this season, United’s win rate trebles, their points return doubles, their scoring rate quadruples and the team runs, on average, 4km more per game.

Given that context, it is not surprising Ten Hag and United were extremely disappointed with the manner and timing of Ronaldo’s interview, with the club only finding out about the interview as they were preparing to fly back from London on Sunday evening.

Ronaldo puts a spotlight on under investment from Glazers

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Manchester United’s fans have given their thoughts on Cristiano Ronaldo’s accusation that he’s been ‘betrayed’ by the club

“Nothing has changed,” was Ronaldo’s damning verdict on the facilities at United, criticising the lack of development of the gym, pool, technology and catering at Carrington.

For fans who have protested against the Glazers’ ownership, this will be a familiar frustration.

There were also digs at the appointment of Ralf Rangnick – “I’d never even heard of him” – but this summer there was a wide restructuring behind the scenes at Manchester United and, with the arrival of Ten Hag, there has also been an emphasis on analytics at the club, with a drive to modernise.

There is a revamp of Carrington planned, headed by Mags Mernagh. She led on Leicester City’s £130m training ground uplift and is in charge of immediate progress to the infrastructure as well as what director of football John Murtough terms “the masterplan.”

The planning permission applied for at Carrington includes offices, a gym, catering area, and an overspill car park.

United have been engaging architectural design firm Populous and business planning consultant Legends on feasibility work to improve Old Trafford, although major improvements to the stadium likely to be two years away still.


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