Sky Sports’ Gary Neville says there is “no way back” for Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United after his explosive criticism of the club and manager Erik ten Hag, but insists he is not against his former team-mate.
Neville, who was himself criticised by Ronaldo during his interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, has told Sky Sports he cannot see the Portugal forward playing for the club again.
“No, and l don’t think he wants a way back,” Neville said. “He wouldn’t have done this interview if he wanted a way back. He knew it would bring the headlines it has and be the end of his Manchester United career.”
Manchester United have not yet indicated what action they make take following Ronaldo’s interview.
“I’m wondering what Man Utd are doing because the reality of it is they know they have to terminate Cristiano’s contract or they basically open up a precedent so any player can criticise them in the future,” added Neville.
“I agree with some of the things Cristiano has said and many Man Utd fans will agree with many things Cristiano has said but the reality is if you’re an employee within a business and say those things your employment has to terminate and Man Utd have to do that in the next few days.
“Cristiano probably wants that as well but it didn’t need to end like that. They could have come together a couple of weeks ago and navigated a pathway through what could have potentially been choppy seas to the shore but it’s not happened, they’ve both basically backed themselves into a corner.”
Neville: I’m not against Ronaldo!
Responding to criticism from Neville and Wayne Rooney this season, Ronaldo told Morgan his former team-mates “are not my friends” and “would not be having dinner together”.
What did Ronaldo say about Neville and Rooney?
“People can have their own opinions.
“They don’t really know what’s going on at the training ground, they have to listen to my point of view as well. It’s easy to criticise if they don’t know the whole story.
“They are not my friends, they are colleagues. We played together but we’re not having dinner together. It’s part of my journey, they keep criticising me with negativity every time. I can continue my trip and I have to catch up with people who like me.”
Asked for his thoughts and whether he was against Ronaldo, Neville replied: “It’s not true, what he said, but all’s fair in love and war.
“I live in the game of criticism and know I have to accept it, and I get plenty of it back. I love all my team-mates I played with, including Cristiano.
“I’m not against Ronaldo – far from it. I couldn’t have any more admiration for him, I couldn’t have any more respect for him. He’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen and he’s the most talented player I ever played with.
“I saw Cristiano’s comments and I accept criticism. I would still shake Cristiano’s hand – he may not shake mine! But I don’t carry things forward.”
‘Exits don’t have to happen this way’
Ronaldo, who rejoined United in August 2021 and finished as their top scorer in all competitions last season with 24 goals, asked to leave the club in the summer.
But he remained at Old Trafford ahead of the 2022/23 campaign and told Morgan he felt “betrayed” by United for trying to force him out this term.
Neville said: “There was probably another way to do it but that was from the club’s side and Cristiano’s side.
“When I had that debate in the studio after the Chelsea game three or four weeks ago with Roy Keane, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dave Jones, I urged Man Utd and Cristiano to come together that week because it was obvious the relationship was failing or had failed and to navigate a pathway to January or the World Cup where they created a truce. Exits don’t have to happen this way if both sides are proactive and mature. I’m disappointed that meeting doesn’t seem to have happened.
“Cristiano hasn’t been controlled or managed, it doesn’t look like he’s reached out to the club and opened communication lines. We’ve ended up with this quite unsavoury situation whereby it looks like Cristiano is going to end this period of his reign at Man Utd in not a great a feeling as it should be.
“He’s one of the greatest players ever to play the game in the world and certainly one of Man Utd’s greatest ever players.
“As a fan it doesn’t feel right that someone I played with needs to leave the club in this way, or the club need to end it this way.”
Ronaldo’s big flashpoints this season
- July 31: Manchester United 1-1 Rayo Vallecano: Ronaldo leaves Old Trafford mid-way through United’s pre-season friendly along with other members of the squad. Ten Hag described it as “not acceptable”.
- October 2: Manchester City 6-3 Manchester United – Ronaldo was left on the bench despite United being 4-0 down at half-time. Ten Hag said he did not bring the 37-year-old on out of “respect” for Ronaldo’s career.
- October 19: Manchester United 2-0 Tottenham – Ronaldo refuses to come onto the pitch as a substitute and storms down the tunnel before full-time.
- October 22: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United – Ronaldo is suspended by United for disciplinary reasons in the aftermath of the Tottenham match.
- November 10: Manchester United 4-2 Aston Villa – After returning for two Premier League games after his suspension, Ronaldo is declared ill by Ten Hag and is not included in the matchday squad for their Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa.
- November 13: Fulham 1-2 Manchester United – Ronaldo is still missing from the United matchday squad and later that evening, his shock interview criticising the club is released.
Nev: Ten Hag has handled situation perfectly
Ronaldo was dropped by United manager Erik ten Hag for last month’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea for refusing to be brought on as a late substitute in the 2-0 home win over Tottenham and for leaving Old Trafford early.
The 37-year-old said he has “no respect” for Ten Hag because he “doesn’t show respect for me”, but Neville believes the Dutchman has handled the situation “perfectly”.
Neville said: “I think Erik ten Hag has handled a very difficult first six months at United perfectly. I don’t think he could have done anything differently.
“Cristiano Ronaldo’s a monster of a player, a monster of a character, with a massive reach. He’s been in a bit of a difficult position because if he publicly takes him on, he’s probably not going to win.
Man Utd calm about Ronaldo interview
Manchester United will not make a decision on Cristiano Ronaldo’s future until they see the full interview with Piers Morgan and remain calm about the situation, Sky Sports News’ Dharmesh Sheth reports.
Sky Sports News understands that Man United don’t accept some of the criticism Ronaldo made in the clips that have been aired so far.
Ronaldo criticised the club for a lack of investment in the 13 years since he left Old Trafford but sources have insisted United have invested in their facilities – notably the training ground, restaurant and swimming pool.
Ronaldo was also critical of Erik ten Hag but again sources insist Ronaldo was treated with respect by the club and the manager – in news conferences, Erik ten Hag always maintained Ronaldo had been given time off to deal with family matters.
“Privately, we know he has problems with Ronaldo because he keeps leaving him out. But Ronaldo, Ten Hag, the executives, sporting directors, owners, they should have got in a room a few weeks ago and said, ‘We don’t respect each other, we don’t like each other, we don’t want this to continue so let’s end it properly’. They’ve not done that – there’s not been proactive leadership. They’ve shied away from it thinking it’s going to be OK but that doesn’t happen in football, particularly when you’re dealing with such a big character. Ronaldo’s not going to accept that.
“Cristiano looks like someone who thinks the world’s against him – it doesn’t have to be like that. The club need to reach out to Cristiano and his advisers and navigate a way this ends very quickly. It’s becoming more unsavoury by the day and there’s no need for it to be like that.”
Neville disappointed with criticism of young players
During his interview with TalkTV, Ronaldo also hit out at young players for “not caring” or listening to his advice and claimed they “have it too easy”, but he praised United team-mates Diogo Dalot, Lisandro Martinez and Casimero for their professionalism.
Sky Sports News understands United players are disappointed with the way Ronaldo has behaved and Neville thinks some of his comments were “unfair”.
“I was disappointed when he criticised the young players. That’s what people used to say about us when we came through in the 1990s. It’s what late-30s, 40-year-old, 50-year-old people say about 16, 17, 18-year-olds and it’s not true,” Neville said.
“I actually think football players nowadays are more resilient than they were 20 years ago because of the criticism they get on social media and the scrutiny that’s on them. I think it’s unfair to criticise the young players.”
United only found out about Ronaldo’s interview as they were preparing to fly back from London on Sunday evening following their Premier League game at Fulham – a match they won thanks to teenager Alejandro Garnacho’s stoppage-time winner.
“I don’t know if Cristiano’s comments were directly at Garnacho, only Cristiano would know that,” Neville said. “I don’t think they were, maybe.
“One thing I would say is when the young boy scored that goal at Fulham on Sunday. It wasn’t a similar goal to the one Cristiano scored all those years ago at Fulham but it was in the same area of the pitch and it felt like a significant moment in that young player’s career, as that goal was for Cristiano that day. I’d have probably just rung Piers Morgan up and said, ‘Look just pull it back until tomorrow, let’s let the young kid have his night tonight, let’s let the young kid have the headlines tomorrow.’ I did think that was unwise, personally.
“On Sunday night, when his team-mate has just scored a last-minute winner, his team had scored a last-minute winner, the young boy had just scored a hero goal in a great moment, it would probably have been better for Cristiano to put back his announcement of his interview until Monday night off the back of it. But the reality is it’s gone out, it is what it is.”
Piers Morgan Uncensored: 90 Minutes with Ronaldo continues on TalkTV on Thursday at 8pm.