Cristiano Ronaldo has seen his second chapter at Manchester United come to an end. But rather than a happy ending, his presence had threatened to engulf the club, and sooner or later, it could have unravelled things in a very patchy way.
Manchester United announced this week that the club and Cristiano Ronaldo had reached a mutual consensus regarding the termination of his contract following an explosive interview revealing a number of dark secrets about the club.
Ronaldo’s return to the club was heavily supported by the Manchester United supporters as they gave a rousing welcome to their boyhood hero at Old Trafford. The 37-year-old forward kept pushing for that final edge and did produce some eye-catching moments, including an excellent hat-trick against Tottenham Hostpur and a stoppage-time winner against Atalanta.
Despite Ronaldo being the focal point of Manchester United’s attack, criticism started to pour in as his lack of intent for pressing further up on the pitch left the Red Devils reeling to be a more conservative team.
But Manchester United are known for their expressive football, and Ronaldo’s struggles on the pitch did seem to have created a plethora of problems for all the managers. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did try his best to ignore Ronaldo’s issues, while Ralf Rangnick’s brief tenure got embedded in the Portuguese attacker’s monumental stature.
The German manager tried to make the management aware of Ronaldo being a potential liability in the near future. But the Manchester United hierarchy did not really have a plan for the next course of action. And the entry of Erik ten Hag changed all the perceptions.
His brutal assessment of Ronaldo sensed an upcoming downward trajectory, and he had not really used the former Real Madrid man to mark his authority in the dressing room. The Dutch manager is a believer in strict man management, which is why youngsters like Alejandro Garnacho had to wait for their chance as he thought the youngster did not have the required attitude to take on defenders on the pitch.
Uncertainty is also hovering around Ronaldo in the national team as there is bound to be a distraction as the player’s timing also coincided with the players meeting for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The interview was held just before the squad meeting in Lisbon, and although the unity within the squad is quite intact, the Portuguese camp is a bit discontent as it could have a severe implication on the country’s World Cup preparation.
Ronaldo had not looked in sync at all, and his Manchester United performances could set the tone for a very different World Cup as the player might not be guaranteed a first-team spot this time. Having started just four Premier League matches, ten Hag sent a clear message that he will not budge for anyone’s demands, and he will choose the best possible eleven for the betterment of the team.
After the disastrous first two games, Manchester United came back with a bang with back-to-back wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal. And the veteran Portuguese attacker barely contributed in those matches.
Things started to unravel in a quirky manner as ten Hag started to understand that leaving Ronaldo out of the starting lineup would be good for both him and the 37-year-old, who would not survive in his pressing system.
His off-the-pitch influence also was one of the reasons why the Manchester United manager did not blink much when Ronaldo deliberately wanted to leave the club for a UEFA Champions League destination.
The management approved a lengthier time off for the player to deal with his personal problems, and he was not even involved in the pre-season training. His advancing age was poised to trouble him throughout the season, as he looked clueless during the first few games under the stewardship of ten Hag.
The Dutch manager still maintained a strong confidence in Ronaldo and had always praised the player whenever he had a chance. But Ronaldo’s claim of disrespect had absolutely no foundation, as the former Ajax manager gave him enough room to accommodate him in his formation.
Erik ten Hag even handed Ronaldo the captain’s armband for a game against Aston Villa. And while it could be almost unthinkable to leave Ronaldo on the bench, in the present circumstances, no other European bigwig would offer him a straightforward role in these competitive days.
His enormous wages also invited a potential split opinion as he almost covered ten per cent of Manchester United’s total wage bill. Securing Ronaldo’s return proved to be a financially beneficial deal for the Manchester United owners as shirt sales and merchandise sales soared as supporters were pretty optimistic regarding the return of their prodigal son.
But it had not shaped that way, and a large number of Manchester United supporters voiced their support behind Erik ten Hag after the latest interview saga. The hierarchy also stood tall with their manager as both the management and the head coach will now heave a sigh of relief to get rid of the 37-year-old.
This incident has only tarnished Ronaldo’s Manchester United legacy, and he would be adamant to prove his doubters wrong when Portugal embark on the World Cup campaign. As for his Manchester United legacy, there is no doubt that Ronaldo has a black mark against his name due to his antics ahead of his stormy departure.