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Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United: How Love and Joy Turned Into Irreparable Damage

By Rory Grant

(Cristiano Ronaldo speaks about United’s current manager, “I don’t have respect for Erik Ten Hag” on Piers Morgan Uncensored. Photo courtesy of Sky Sports)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy is in jeopardy, and the G.O.A.T. debate is practically over. His interview with Piers Morgan and recent $250M deal to join the Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr have created shock waves all over the world. Here’s what happened.

The Background

The world of Manchester United is in chaos right now. In my long analysis of Manchester United’s history and problems over the last 10 years, I gave a whole segment to the Ronaldo situation and how he does not play the system, Erik Ten Hag (Manchester United’s manager) wants. Ten Hag believes that Ronaldo should be doing more of his defensive duties, but Ronaldo believes otherwise, as he always has. Ronaldo just doesn’t play defense. For years, his skill and goal-scoring capabilities have always let him get away with this, but now that United is struggling, this problem has popped way back up again.

Due to Ronaldo and Ten Hag’s disagreements, Ronaldo has been dropped to the substitutes bench and is not a guaranteed starter anymore. He has taken this in an outrageously negative way. Ronaldo’s ego is huge, so to have himself on the bench was heresy in his mind. The incidents in question all come from these sets of problems that have led us here.

The Incident

On November 16, 2022, the great Cristiano Ronaldo sat down with journalist and controversial talk show host Piers Morgan, who covers a variety of topics. On Morgan’s show, Ronaldo discussed a variety of things, most of which stemmed around his time at Manchester United and how it has not gone swimmingly at all. He dropped bombshell after bombshell, making statements about how United’s facilities and staff had not changed or been improved since when he left the club way back in 2009, something Manchester United has fervently denied. “I feel betrayed, some people I feel, don’t want me here.”

  • When Ronaldo talked about Manchester United over the last decade, something I’ve previously gone over, he also took a moment to take a shot at the man who managed United before Ten Hag, saying: "I don’t know what is going on but since Sir Alex Ferguson(United’s legendary manager who left in 2013) left I saw no evolution in the club, the progress was zero. “For example, we have an interesting point that how the club as Manchester United after (they) sack Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer, former United manager), they buy – they bring (in), sports director Ralf Rangnick, which is something that nobody understands. “This guy is not even a coach. A bigger club like Manchester United brings (a) sports director – surprised not only me but all the world, you know.”

  • He came back to the point about United’s facilities not being upgraded since the late 2000’s, saying: “Nothing changed. Surprisingly. Not only the pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym … Even some points, the technology, the kitchen, the chefs, which is, I appreciate, lovely persons. “They stopped in a time, which surprised me a lot. I thought I will see different things … different, as I mentioned before, technology, infrastructure. But unfortunately, we see many things that I used to see when I was 20, 21, 23. So, it surprised me a lot.”

  • Ronaldo and ex-United teammate(and a former legend in his own right) Wayne Rooney have had a rocky relationship, full of ups and downs. After Rooney had a dig at Ronaldo a few weeks prior, Ronaldo shot back at him, telling Morgan: "I don't know why he(Wayne Rooney, a former teammate of Ronaldo who had a great career but now is retired) criticizes me so badly... probably because he finished his career and I'm still playing at high level."

But by far, the biggest, most colossal bombshell statement Ronaldo made was when he talked about Erik Ten Hag and said, “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.” This is a big no-no. You never disrespect your current manager, because you end up disrespecting the entire team. Everyone was in shock, and most people were disgusted by his comments, but that’s just how Ronaldo is.

(Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Erik Ten Hag, a similar but much shorter and catastrophic feud as what happened between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho. Photo courtesy of 90 Min)

The Consequences

Manchester United made it very clear that they weren’t going to tolerate this behavior. Not only was the interview horribly timed, as the World Cup started this past Sunday, right as the players and staff were going on break, but it destroyed what progress and mentality the team had. The players now had to go to the World Cup, including Ronaldo, with this interview in the back of their heads. After the interview, United immediately made him train alone, away from the rest of the first team and suspended him for one match (the last game before the World Cup, which United narrowly won 2-1 against Fulham). The final consequence came just on November 22, when they terminated his contract. Ronaldo then went on one of the saddest journeys possible throughout the World Cup, constantly saying that a big club would pick him up and that he’d be back to Champions League football in no time. But the weeks went by, and with the exception of top Portuguese club Sporting, Ronaldo’s first big club, who offered him a contract at a far lower salary than he expected, no clubs took the bait(and rightfully so in my mind).

Actions Have Consequences

And so, as the World Cup ended, with Ronaldo’s Portugal coming home empty-handed (while Messi’s Argentina won it all, further humiliating Ronaldo and adding more evidence to Messi’s case as to whether he or Ronaldo is the G.O.A.T.), he announced that he was joining Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassir. We’ve seen tons of great players over the years head off to China, the USA, and Japan, but for someone who was 1 of 2 players of his generation worthy of the G.O.A.T. acronym, to go to Saudi Arabia, of all places is shocking. Surely he deserved to end his career in Europe, but his ego wouldn’t have it.

(Ronaldo signs with Al-Nassr, photo courtesy of ESPN)

My Take On All This

Honestly, I cannot say much other than that all of this was deserved. Ronaldo is Ronaldo, his ego cannot handle being benched, especially in big matches, so it makes sense that he would speak out. United then took the proper course of action by removing the poison from the wound, and cutting Ronaldo’s contract. The one big thing I am interested to look at is how much United improves without Ronaldo, which will play into my theory that Ronaldo runed United’s 2021/22 season, and that without him, they would be in a much better position right now. All I can say is that Ronaldo is gone. I wish him the best of luck tearing up the Saudi Arabian league, (even though it isn’t televised here so YouTube highlights will have to do.) and hopefully, he’s at least enjoying the fact that his piles of cash continue to grow.

But first, he has to serve a two day suspension for a FA incident he committed in April, slapping away an Everton fan’s phone. So all those sold out matches for Ronaldo’s debut are going to make those fans pretty damn mad.

Hopefully, though, this concludes the Ronaldo saga for now.

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