On the eve of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, and just hours after Manchester United final Premier League match before the World Cup break, Cristiano Ronaldo stunned the footballing world with an explosive interview.
Speaking to broadcaster Piers Morgan on his Talk TV show, Ronaldo claimed he felt "betrayed" by United and that he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag. The Portuguese forward claimed Ten Hag tried to force him out of the club.
Ronaldo was absent from the United squad that beat Fulham in that final match in November and it now appears he may have played his final match for the club. Despite what was dubbed a 'homecoming' for the legendary striker after signing in September 2021, it's hard to see a way back for him following his decision to go public with his gripes.
The initial comments were only a snippet of the full interview and yet they caused a storm among United fans and the wider footballing world. It leaves many questions hanging over United, Ronaldo and his future.
MORE: Ronaldo's full interview with Piers Morgan: What he said and how to watch
Will Cristiano Ronaldo play for Man United again?
It was widely reported and well-known that Ronaldo wanted to leave United in the summer of 2022, with Ten Hag open to letting him go after the player's agent Jorge Mendes began contacting several clubs with a view to a transfer. The player was linked with Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and even a move to Saudi Arabia but nothing materialised.
Asked if United were trying to force him out, Ronaldo told Piers Morgan Uncensored: "Yes. Not only the coach, but two or three other guys around the club.
"I felt betrayed. Honestly, I shouldn't say that, I don't know. But I don't care, people should listen. I feel betrayed and I felt that some people didn't want me here, not only this year but last year, too."
"I feel betrayed."— Piers Morgan Uncensored (@PiersUncensored) November 13, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Cristiano Ronaldo tells Piers Morgan he feels like he's being forced out of Manchester United in an explosive interview.
90 Minutes with Ronaldo. Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on TalkTV.@cristiano | @piersmorgan | @TalkTV | #PMU pic.twitter.com/nqp4mcXHB0
Ronaldo turns 38 in February, and it would be a major surprise, after everything that's happened and been said, if he played for Man United again, especially with the World Cup meaning there are no club games until late December and the transfer window opening on January 1.
United are said to be furious about the interview.
In a statement after the interview, a club statement read: "Manchester United notes the media coverage regarding an interview by Cristiano Ronaldo. The club will consider its response after the full facts have been established.
"Our focus remains on preparing for the second half of the season and continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built among the players, manager, staff, and fans.”
The club made another statement on Nov 18, saying: "Manchester United has this morning initiated appropriate steps in response to Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent media interview. We will not be making further comment until this process reaches its conclusion."
It's unclear at this stage what repercussions Ronaldo will face.
Why does Cristiano Ronaldo want to leave Man United?
Ronaldo laid out his reasons pretty clearly in his Talk TV interview, without explicitly saying he wanted to leave.
In the summer it was reported that he'd become disillusioned at the club due to the Red Devils' failure to qualify for the Champions League — which resulted in an enforced wage cut — and the poor quality of the squad (in his eyes, at least).
He added in this most recent interview complaints that there'd been "no evolution" at United since Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure and a lack of "empathy" when his young daughter was left in hospital in the summer.
"Nothing had changed," he said. "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."
"They didn't believe that something was going wrong."— Piers Morgan Uncensored (@PiersUncensored) November 14, 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo has told Piers Morgan he felt doubted by his Manchester United bosses when he told them his newborn daughter was sick.@cristiano | @piersmorgan | @TalkTV | #PMU pic.twitter.com/Y2jDLFR62J
Cristiano Ronaldo's relationship with Erik ten Hag
Even before these latest comments, Ronaldo has shown his displeasure with the club and its coaches in other ways during the current 2022/23 season.
He didn't take part in the club's pre-season tour of Australia and Asia, he left the club's final pre-season match before its conclusion, and he refused to come on as a substitute in United's 2-0 win over Tottenham — storming down the tunnel in the process. Despite being named captain in the recent 1-0 Europa League away win at Real Sociedad, he hasn't been a regular starter for Ten Hag, even when available.
It appears as if Ten Hag has deemed the 37-year-old Ronaldo surplus to requirements, preferring to play Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford as his main central striker.
In public press conferences, however, Ten Hag insisted Ronaldo had a place in his plans even after the aforementioned fallouts. He's handed him 10 starts and16 overall appearances in 21 matches this season. The bulk of those starts have come in the Europa League.
After a 24-goal season in 2021/22 season, Ronaldo has just three tallies to his name so far (two versus FC Sheriff in the Europa League and one against Everton in the league).
“We will first talk,” Ten Hag said after Ronaldo's antics during the Tottenham game, after which the player was sent to train alone for a spell. “We set certain standards. That is for any player.
"There has to be consequences for bad behaviour, and when it is the second time. You can’t let it go, otherwise it will be miserable for the future. You have to take this measure. I don’t like it because I prefer the squad with Cristiano onboard.”
Cristiano Ronaldo Man United contract: When it expires
Luckily for Ronaldo (and probably for United as well), there is a transfer window fast approaching and due to the World Cup in Qatar, the club doesn't have any games until December 21.
That's when United face Burnley in the Carabao Cup, and then six days later they get their Premier League campaign back underway after the World Cup (Dec. 27).
The winter transfer window opens shortly after on January 1, when Ronaldo could potentially depart if another club is interested in his services.
His contract at Old Trafford officially expires at the end of June 2023, making it highly unlikely that any suitor will pay Manchester United a transfer fee.
If Ronaldo doesn't move in January, he can negotiate a pre-contract agreement with another club. This is when, up to six months before the expiration of a contract, a player can agree to sign for a club in a different league.
That would mean he'd have to remain with United through the first half of 2023 until June 30, though Man United and Ten Hag might well want to part company sooner than that.
MORE: Can Ronaldo lead Portugal to World Cup glory? Latest odds, fixtures and group news
Cristiano Ronaldo's next club: Potential January destinations
Chelsea, which had summer conversations with Ronaldo's representatives, tops the oddsmakers' list as a potential next stop for Ronaldo, in front of Italian side AS Roma, which features a Portuguese sporting director and manager (Jose Mourinho).
Ronaldo's former club Sporting CP and a handful of others clubs and leagues around the world are also seen as having a shot at landing the superstar.
Cristiano Ronaldo's next club odds
Odds according to Betfair
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