Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United in 2021 was seen by many as the missing piece to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s jigsaw. They had signed Varane and Sancho, and the expectation was that the team that finished as runners-up would mount a title challenge. A year later, after a 24-goal season in all competitions, what looked like the last piece of a jigsaw turned out to be a rotten egg in a flourishing Man United team.
It all began in the summer when Ronaldo expressed his wish to continue his adventure elsewhere after the end of the season. He let the club know of his motivation to play for a Champions League club, allowing him to compete for titles at the highest level. At the same time, Man United noted that Ronaldo was not available for sale, and newly appointed manager Erik Ten Hag was eager to work with him as a vital squad member.
However, as other Man United players reported for the pre-season, Ronaldo was absent, missing the team’s tour of Thailand and Australia. As widely reported by the media, Ronaldo was attending to an important personal issue. He later joined the team two and a half weeks later. Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes continued to push for a transfer that was not forthcoming. Even though he wanted to leave Man United, no European club expressed interest in signing him, and attempts by Jorge Mendes were unfruitful. Napoli, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea rejected approaches from Jorge Mendes. Ronaldo rejected the sole offer from a Saudi Arabian club, noting that he had more to offer at the highest level.
Man United started the season with two defeats of Brighton and Brentford but quickly picked up wins against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Southampton. The wins and impressive displays brought Man United back on track. Ten Hag was reluctant to give Ronaldo full minutes, opting to bring him from the bench. Over the months, Ronaldo has openly indicated discomfort with his role, often shaking his head when subbed off or making questionable gestures while on the bench. Recently, he left the field after declining to come on against Tottenham Hotspur and left Old Trafford before the game was over.
The Tottenham game was the second time Ronaldo left his teammates before the game was over. In a pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano, Ronaldo left the stadium after he was subbed off at the half time. Erik Ten Hag termed the behaviour unacceptable, reinforcing his stance by excluding him from the squad to face Chelsea. While Ronaldo apologized, his behaviour became intolerable. Man United must find ways to cut ties with him, either in January or, at worst, in the summer upon the expiry of his contract.
Ten Hag’s team is better without Ronaldo, and the performances with him on and off the pitch are incomparable. Rashford and Anthony Martial have offered added dynamism to United’s attack and have scored goals, affirming their value to the team compared to Ronaldo. At 37, there is little that Ronaldo can offer to this team. Instead of becoming a role model and leader, he is a rotten egg that deserves to be removed.