Ten Hag and Ronaldo, his stroppy step-son

I wonder what was going through Erik ten Hag‘s mind the evening that Cristiano Ronaldo’s now-infamous interview with Piers Morgan was announced. Surely, it was a relief for the Manchester United manager, knowing that soon his time managing Cristiano Ronaldo would be over. His doomed arranged marriage with the Portuguese forward would surely be heading to the divorce courts before another ball was kicked at Old Trafford.  

Hours after a fiercely-contested game away at Fulham, which included a last-gasp winner from teenage starlet Alejandro Garnacho, snippets of a strange interview were shared on social media. It was revealed that Ronaldo, who played no part in the victory due to illness, had sat for a long, explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he would share some truths about his second stint at United. 

Ronaldo’s scathing assessment of his manager and club

Ronaldo revealed a lack of respect for his manager, Erik Ten Hag, and a stale mentality at Old Trafford. He claimed that the club has not progressed whatsoever since Sir Alex Ferguson left as manager in 2013.

The Manchester United manager is said to have a handled the berating interview well. Ronaldo’s United teammates are ambivalent about Ronaldo‘s current status at the club. They are under no illusion that United’s fortunes on the pitch are markedly better without Ronaldo.

It seems that both United‘s hierarchy and Cristiano‘s entourage are scrambling for a mutual termination. But what will this mean for the Dutch manager? Will his side benefit or lose ground? What will the next six months at Manchester United look like in the second post-Ronaldo era?

Belgium Portugal
Ronaldo has since joined up with his country in preparation for the Qatar World Cup. (Photo by UEFA)

The aftermath – what this will mean for United and Ronaldo

It has become clear that Ronaldo is extremely unlikely to play for United again. The interview is scathing and damaging enough, the boardroom believe, to warrant a dismissal.

Firstly, this will free up an abundance of resources for Manchester United. Wage-wise, Ronaldo peaks around £500,000 every week. With 32 weeks left on his deal, Ronaldo is due to profit around £16 million in the remainder of his time at Old Trafford.

Should United hierarchy get a clean break in terms of Ronaldo’s contract, they will have freed up a substantial chunk of money and shredded their wage budget by around 10%. This should enable a fresh face to be brought in to replace Ronaldo up-front. Erik Ten Hag had continually reminded journalist in press conferences about Manchester United’s need for another forward prior to Ronaldo’s outburst. 

The dutchman has made no secret of his desire for a goal-scoring striker at United (Photo by MUFC)

Will this affect Ten Hag’s momentum?

Away from the eye-watering money involved, Erik Ten Hag must feel a sense of relief. His Manchester United side perform notable better without Ronaldo playing. It is difficult to doubt Ronaldo’s former quality. What he offers now however is not reasonable considering the amount of challenges he presents. The cons far outweigh the pros.

During a preseason tie vs. Rayo Vallecano, Ronaldo played an unimpressive 45 minutes before leaving the stadium at half-time. Not a good look.

Infamously, in October Ronaldo also refused to come off the bench for the final five minutes of a win vs Spurs. This gave his manager a crucial decision to make, one that Ten Hag handled professionally and proportionally. He dropped the Portuguese striker for the game at Stamford Bridge later that week. In doing so, Ten Hag actually shortchanged himself and potentially his teams ability to win, but nothing was more important than laying down a precedent. United drew the tie in what seemed like a win thanks to a late, late Casemiro header. Ronaldo was suspended.

Ten Hag was quick to resolve and forgive. He reinstated Ronaldo later that week in a game vs. Sheriff. Ronaldo was given the captain’s armband by his manager and helped United overcome the Moldovan minnows.

There is a feeling of momentum around Old Trafford this season. The Dutch coach has come in and dramatically altered the play style of his squad. Unfortunately for the 37-year-old Portuguese legend, this style does not play to his strengths whatsoever. For Ten Hag’s system to work, United need quick breakaways with energetic forwards, high press and progressive passing. Ronaldo simply cannot keep up and this is reflected in his goal return this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has scored just three goals in his 16 appearance this season.

Post-interview thoughts – did Ronaldo make valid points?

The interview in question highlighted an important and regrettable time in Ronaldo‘s long illustrious career. Appearing as a spoilt, petulant egotist, Ronaldo’s self-serving ambitions are clear. Though not explicitly stated, he is actively seeking an escape strategy from his club. 

Declining in ability, usefulness and presence, Ronaldo has given one final push to leave, having failed to find a willing club in the summer.

It leaves a deeply melancholy taste in the mouths of United fans who once (and still) adore the man. His enormous efforts in the 2008 double winning season alongside countless other trophies and beautiful memories at Manchester United cannot be forgotten. However, if this once great club is to reach the heights it once typified, it cannot and should not house passengers. Ronaldo has become a passenger. An expensive, ill-tempered, pampered former star who refuses to accept his own decline whilst attempting to tarnish the manager who currently oversees the club’s ambition.

Ten Hag is still assembling the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle that is Manchester United. His job is now made palpably easier without the circus that Ronaldo brings. His squad must remain focused to achieve their goals this season. Ronaldo’s absence will unquestionably improve morale, togetherness and atmosphere in the dressing room, all staples of a successful Ten Hag side.

Author: Sam Talbot

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