Manchester United announce Cristiano Ronaldo exit

Ronaldo has left the club with six months left to run on his contract following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

Cristiano Ronaldo on one of his final appearances for Man United.
Cristiano Ronaldo on one of his final appearances for Man United.
Image: PA

MANCHESTER UNITED HAVE announced Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the club, eight days after the first revelations were published from his explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

Ronaldo was contracted to the club until the end of this season. 

In a remarkable interview with Morgan from which excerpts were published on Monday of last week, Ronaldo said he felt “betrayed” by the club and that he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag. 

In a statement this afternoon, United announced Ronaldo has left the club by mutual agreement. 

“Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect”, read the United statement. 

“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.

“Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team’s progress under Erik ten Hag and working together to deliver success on the pitch.” 

Portugal international Ronaldo, who is due to kick-off his World Cup campaign against Ghana on Thursday, issued his own statement in which he said: “Following conversations with Manchester United we have mutually agreed to end our contract early.

“I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change. However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge.

“I wish the team every success for the remainder of the season and for the future.”

It brings a premature end to Ronaldo’s second stint at the club, having signed at the start of last season. Ronaldo revealed in his interview with Morgan last week that he was subject to interest from Manchester City in the summer of 2021, but signed for United following an intervention from Alex Ferguson. 

Ronaldo scored 24 goals in 38 games in all competitions for United last season, but his relatively strong individual form jarred against United’s collective collapse, as the team finished outside of the Champions League places and sacked manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, replacing him on an interim basis with Ralf Rangnick, whom Ronaldo told Morgan he had never heard of. 

Erik ten Hag’s appointment in the summer led to Ronaldo’s marginalisation from the team, sitting on the bench for several key games – including the Manchester derby hammering against Man City – while playing regularly in the Europa League. Rumblings of latent friction between manager and player became obvious in the closing minutes of United’s Premier League win over Tottenham last month, as Ronaldo refused to be brought on as a substitute and walked down the tunnel before the game had ended. 

He was reintroduced to the team having initially been left out of United’s next game as punishment – even wearing the captain’s armband – but the final act of an illustrious United career came in an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan on Talk TV. A 90-minute interview was broadcast across two days last week, but its headline revelations emerged online in the hours after United’s 2-1 win over Fulham, their final Premier League game before the winter break. 

Ronaldo accused United of “betraying” him by allegedly trying to force him out of the club during the summer, saying of ten Hag, “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 gonna have respect for you.” 

He criticised several former team-mates who had criticised him in the media, including Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney, calling them “rats”, while praising Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand, those ex-colleagues who had remained publicly supportive of him. 

Ronaldo also echoed many United supporters’ sentiments in criticising how the club has been run since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, saying the club had not moved with the times, citing the fact gym equipment had remained the same since he was last at the club in 2009. 

Ronaldo is currently in Qatar with Portugal, competing at what will be his final World Cup. After that attention will turn to his next destination, with Ronaldo telling Morgan that he turned down an offer from Saudi club in the summer. 

Ronaldo first signed for United in 2003, the club apocryphally signing him up on the word of a harried John O’Shea, who had been tormented by him in a pre-season firendly with Ronaldo’s first club, Sporting Lisbon. 

He was stunningly successful in his first spell with United, winning the Champions League along with three Premier League titles and the 2008 Ballon D’Or. 

His end at the club is redolent of that of Keane’s: ended by a broadcast deemed explosive by United, though his was an interview granted to Morgan rather than a broadcast to MUTV. 

Ronaldo seemed to accept his inevitable exit in his interview with Morgan, portraying his exit as a potential part of United’s overhaul. 

“As Picasso said, you have to destroy it to rebuild it and if they start with me, for me, it’s not a problem.” 

United have evidently agreed on the same starting point.   

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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