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Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United

The cloud that now hangs over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United career

Just a few days before Portugal’s first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Manchester United have announced that they are parting ways with star player Cristiano Ronaldo.

The news comes as a shock, though only to some extent. After Ronaldo gave an interview with Piers Morgan where he expressed that he felt ”betrayed” by the club and said that he had ”no respect” for his manager, Erik ten Hag, many already knew that the end was in sight.

And now it’s here. In a statement, Manchester United says ”Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.”

It’s a sad day, especially for fans of United. When Ronaldo came back to Manchester after leaving the club in 2009, it was a romantic story.

After 12 years, the legend returns to Old Trafford!

But now, it’s unfortunate (to say the least) that when we say that Ronaldo will never again wear a Manchester United uniform, we say so with a bitter taste in our mouths.

Born in Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo’s career truly began flourishing at Manchester United. Coming from Sporting CP, he signed with the historic English club when he was only 18 years old. He was the first Portuguese player to sign for United, and red certainly agreed with him.

When Ronaldo first moved to Manchester from Sporting, he initially requested to wear the number 28. Alternatively, however, he was given the number seven shirt—cementing him as one of the greats early on.

In his first season with Manchester United, the young Portuguese player helped the team win a major title that year. In 39 appearances, he scored eight goals, including the first goal in their 3-0 win that won them the FA Cup.

He was named Sir Matt Busby player of the year.

Throughout the coming years, the success continued rolling in. From 2003 to 2009, he played 196 games and scored 84 goals. Together with the team, he won three consecutive Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy.

And it was this success that led Real Madrid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo for €94 million in 2009. At the time, this was the most expensive football transfer in history.

He became Real Madrid’s top scorer and won 15 trophies for the team, including four Champions League titles. In 2018, he moved to Juventus to win five more major trophies.

In 2021, the prodigal son returned—Cristiano Ronaldo was coming back home to Manchester United.

The prodigal son returns

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson—the famed football manager who led Manchester United to 38 trophies under his reign—retired in 2013, the Reds haven’t been the same.

When Ferguson was at the wheel, United didn’t go more than three seasons without winning the Premier League title. But in recent years, the struggle has been to merely crack into the top four of the league.

They saw manager after manager attempt to bring United back to its glory days, but the drought still remained. But when Cristiano Ronaldo came back to Old Trafford, a piece of the team’s shining history came alive again.

Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it truly was the hope that Ronaldo would be the missing piece United had missed for all the years in between. Whatever it was, it never fully lived up to the hype.

However, Ronaldo’s first season back kept the fans hopeful. He finished the season with 24 goals and was able to surpass 800 goals in his career in total. But we expected nothing less from the Portuguese legend—he’s still a finishing machine.

But in his second season back with Manchester, the cracks began to show. Or maybe, rather, his age.

Burning bridges

Before the 2022-23 season kicked off, rumors circulated about Ronaldo wanting to transfer out of United, but was declined by some European clubs. Following this, and now with a new rule under manager Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo lost his place in the starting lineups.

More often than not this season, we only saw the five-time Champions League winner coming on as a sub—and honestly, not really doing as much as the team needed from him. Sure, he still scored his 700th club goal, but apart from his finishing, his performance on the pitch left much to be desired.

Unlike United’s younger players who are more versatile in skill, Cristiano Ronaldo often looked like he was just waiting to be given an opportunity instead of creating them instead. Surely, Erik ten Hag understood this. Without Ronaldo on the pitch, the Reds looked in better shape for the most part.

But Ronaldo was clearly unhappy being left out, and he didn’t mind showing it.

Things reached its boiling point when the 37-year-old left the Tottenham game this year before the full-time whistle. After being dropped out of the lineup of the team’s next game, however, Ten Hag named him captain against Aston Villa.

After that, it looked like all was going to be fine. That was, until his interview with Piers Morgan came out.

In the interview, Ronaldo shared much of his thoughts on the club and its management—unfiltered. He shared that he felt ”betrayed” and expressed that he did not feel respected in the club. After everything he said about his teammates, his manager, and the team as a whole, we all knew the end was coming.

Now, it finally has. Even if Cristiano Ronaldo simply misplaced his intentions in speaking so openly about the club, legal experts believe that in doing so, he has likely breached his contract with United. And as Sir Alex Ferguson himself once said, “The minute a Manchester United player thinks he’s bigger than the manager, he has to go.”

And the issue goes beyond Cristiano himself. Because of this, it puts a microscope on the club’s management and a question mark on the whole team, and it will certainly affect the other players mentally, as well.

It begs the question: would Ronaldo have been better off if he stayed away? Would it have been better if he didn’t come back to United?

Maybe. Because instead of a career with the club that fans can look back to with only fond memories, now the memories come with a cloud hanging over them.

Still, thank you, Cristiano.

And yet, no one can look at Ronaldo’s career without seeing all the success he brought to Manchester United, all the goals, all the hat-tricks, all the records he accumulated. What he has brought to the club is undeniable.

In the club’s statement, they add, ”The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future.”

It goes without saying. Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy at Manchester United will never be forgotten. It will echo through the halls of Old Trafford for all time. He made history for the club, after all, and that cannot be erased.

Despite all the recent controversies, fans will still bid him goodbye with a thank-you-for-all-you’ve-done.

But unlike the first goodbye, this time around, not everyone will be saying it with a we’ll-miss-you.

Banner image from Cristiano Ronaldo on Instagram.