Cristiano Ronaldo has dropped a bombshell interview just hours after Manchester United’s final match before the World Cup, discussing his deep disappointment and unhappiness with his treatment at the club.
United beat Fulham 2-1 on Sunday afternoon, but attention quickly switched to Ronaldo’s television interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, which will be broadcast later this week. The programme surely spells the end of Ronaldo’s second stint at the club.
The Portugal captain was absent for United’s trip to Craven Cottage, where a stoppage-time goal by Alejandro Garnacho secured the points. Ronaldo had also missed the midweek League Cup win over Aston Villa, and his comments about the club and particularly manager Erik ten Hag make another reconciliation unlikely.
Asked by Morgan if he feels the club want him to leave, Ronaldo replied: “Yes, not only the coach but the other two or three guys there around the club. I felt betrayed. Trying to get rid of me? Honestly, I shouldn’t say that, but I don’t care, people should always listen to the truth. Yes. I feel betrayed and I felt that some people don’t want me here. Not only this year, but last year too.”
On Ten Hag, who has already disciplined Ronaldo for refusing to enter the pitch as a late substitute against Tottenham Hotspur last month, the Seleção man 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 going to have respect for you.”
Former United teammate Wayne Rooney was also discussed in the interview, after Rooney had suggested the Red Devils play better without the Portuguese. “I don’t know why he criticises me so badly. Probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at a high level. I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him [chuckles] which is true.”
Perhaps most interestingly, Ronaldo suggests the club he returned to last summer is a far cry from that which launched him to superstardom across a six-year stint between 2003-2009. Not least because those at senior board level doubted him for not attending pre-season to be with his unwell new-born daughter, who had been delivered after the passing of his son during pregnancy earlier in the year. Ronaldo told Morgan the exchanges with the club left him “hurt” over a lack of empathy.
“I don’t know what’s going on but since Sir Alex Ferguson left, I have not seen evolution in the club,” he said. “The progress was zero. For example, after a club like Manchester United sacked Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] they bring in a sporting director Ralf Rangnick, which is something nobody understands. This guy is not even a coach. A big club like Manchester United brings a sporting director. It surprised not only me but all the world.
“Nothing changed, surprisingly. Not only the pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym. Even the kitchen, the chefs, whom I appreciate – lovely people. They stopped in time. It surprised me a lot. I thought I would see different things, different technology, infrastructure. But unfortunately, we see many things that I was used to seeing when I was 21. So it surprised me a lot.”
United fans will no doubt have mixed feelings over the interview, but Ronaldo’s words of criticism about the club’s mismanagement will ring true for many. This season will likely mark ten years since Alex Ferguson led the last successful Premier League title charge, and Ronaldo believes there is much to be done to reverse the slump.
“I think the fans should know the truth. I want the best for the club. This is why I come to Manchester United. But you have some things inside that don’t help (us) reach the top level as City, Liverpool and even now Arsenal, a club with this dimension should be top of the tree in my opinion and they are not unfortunately.
“As Picasso said, you have to destroy it to rebuild it (the artist’s exact quote was: ‘Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.’) and if they start with me, for me, it’s not a problem.
"I love Manchester United, I love the fans, they’re always on my side. But if they want to do it different… they have to change many, many things.”
With Ronaldo surely unlikely to play for the club again, speculation over his future will accelerate. Early reports have suggested an agreement to terminate his contract could be reached imminently, leaving him free to sign for a new club after the World Cup.
By Sean Gillen