The start of Erik ten Hag’s tenure at Manchester United didn’t begin the way he or the club wanted it to, with back-to-back Premier League losses. However, since then, the team has improved.
On Sunday afternoon, the start of the international break for the World Cup began just after a dramatic 2-1 victory for Manchester United, a win that was a result of an incredible late goal from 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho. It seemed like the team would enter the month-long break in the season on a positive note, but later that evening, segments of an interview between Cristiano Ronaldo and Piers Morgan began to be released.
Ronaldo criticized Ten Hag, last season’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick, his teammates, and the club itself during the segments of the interview that have been released so far. Since the interview began to be released, it has become one of the most significant stories in international football.
How Will Manchester United React?
Ten Hag and Ronaldo’s relationship has already had issues, and there have been concerns that both of them do not work well together. One of Ten Hag’s first decisions after the two losses to start the season was making changes to his preferred starting lineup, changes that saw Ronaldo frequently placed on the bench or resulted in him not even being part of the matchday squad.
The most notable example of Ronaldo’s frustration prior to his interview took place during Manchester United’s 2-0 win against Tottenham earlier this season. During that game, in which Manchester United performed better than possibly any other game since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldo refused to enter the game as a substitute, walked off the field, and exited the stadium.
Ronaldo had reportedly wanted to leave Manchester United during the summer, and after his decision to leave the field against Tottenham, it was speculated he would be released from his contract. However, Ten Hag chose to suspend Ronaldo for a game, and the 37-year-old forward returned to the team after his suspension and started back-to-back games against FC Sherrif in the Europa League and West Ham in the Premier League after his suspension.
The decision to reinvolve Ronaldo in the team was likely partially due to the lack of depth Manchester United currently have at the striker position and also due to several players who were unable to play due to injuries.
Now, after Ronaldo has publicly criticized Ten Hag himself, along with other players not mentioned by name and other aspects of the club, it is hard to imagine him playing another game for Manchester United. Ten Hag, reportedly, believes Ronaldo should not play for the team again, and United has explored ending the forward’s contract.
Manchester United will almost certainly have to consider signing a striker during the January transfer window, whether or not Ronaldo does depart the club. Ten Hag, who has repeatedly emphasized his desire to build a culture and positive team atmosphere after a difficult season last year for the club, is unlikely to want Ronaldo to remain a part of the team in the future.
Where Does Ronaldo’s Career Go From Here?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s career has unquestionably been one of the best in the history of the sport. He holds countless records, and his competition with Lionel Messi for international trophies and the status as the best player in the world has defined an era of the sport’s history.
However, at the age of 37, Ronaldo is no longer the same player he used to be. Ten Hag didn’t choose to remove him from the team’s regular starting lineup despite excellent performances, it was because he felt Ronaldo wasn’t compatible with his desired style of play or emphasis on pressing after he analyzed the team after its first two games.
Ronaldo wants to play for a team in the Champions League, likely in part due to competition with Lionel Messi over multiple goal-scoring records in the competition. If he is released by Manchester United, he could potentially sign with a team still in the competition for the final few months of the season. If United chooses not to release him, it is still likely that the club will likely discuss a potential transfer of Ronaldo in January with any teams that may have an interest in him.
No matter what, Ronaldo’s interview has likely damaged his long-term reputation at Manchester United, especially considering Wayne Rooney, another club legend, was one of the people he discussed, and criticized, during his interview. Whether or not his interview will affect the interest of other teams in signing him is yet to be seen.
The entire sport will focus on the World Cup for the next month, but when players return to their clubs at the end of December, Ronaldo’s relationship with Manchester United will once again take center stage. Ronaldo’s time as a Manchester United player, which has spanned eight seasons during two different tenures with the club, is likely at its end. The next part of his career will be affected by the past few days, but how specifically remains to be seen.