CRISTIANO Ronaldo is used to getting what he wants. When the Portuguese forward decided to leave Juventus last year, it didn’t take long for the offers to arrive. Manchester United didn’t have any plans to re-sign Ronaldo, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Glazers felt they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add one of the best in the world to their team.
A lot has changed in the time since then, though. Questions have asked about Ronaldo’s capacity as a modern forward to the point that many argue United would be better off without the 37-year-old. Now that Ronaldo desires yet another transfer, with his current club no longer in the Champions League, the offers haven’t been so forthcoming.
Jorge Mendes has tried to drum up interest, just as he did last summer when Manchester City’s offer to sign Ronaldo was used to draw out United. Meetings with Chelsea owner Todd Boehly were reportedly held before Mendes brought up Ronaldo’s future in a discussion with Barcelona president Joan Laporta.
Nobody, however, has taken the bait. Ronaldo might want to leave Manchester United this summer, but there just isn’t the interest out there for him to do so. As things stand, he will have no choice but to return to his current club with his tail between his legs having decided against travelling to Australia and Thailand on United’s pre-season tour.
This might be the reality check Ronaldo needs at this stage of his career. There is no denying his brilliance as a penalty box poacher – he still managed to score 18 goals in 30 Premier League appearances last season – but the 37-year-old simply isn’t able to play with the tempo and intensity demanded by most modern managers.
Erik ten Hag: “Cristiano Ronaldo is not for sale. I planned with him, and I’m looking forward to working with him. The situation is still the same. I am well informed – he also has an option for a further season” 🚨🔴 #MUFC
“Ronaldo could stay beyond this season? Yes”, he added. pic.twitter.com/ZhUHARoQrf
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 18, 2022
Erik ten Hag has spoken in glowing terms about Ronaldo since taking over at Old Trafford, but Manchester United’s pre-season performances suggest the Dutchman wants a mobile forward who can press from the front to lead the line. It’s difficult to envisage Ronaldo doing what for ten Hag wants for 90 minutes.
“I have set my demand – we want to play in a certain way,” ten Hag explained in an interview. “A top player can contribute and Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad. Cristiano is capable of doing that. In his career, he has shown everything. The players dictate the way you play. Especially players who score goals because they are extremely important for a team. You construct your team around them.”
Ten Hag’s comments don’t tell the full story, but it’s true that Ronaldo can still play an important role for Manchester United. He is arguably the only natural leader within the Old Trafford dressing room. Ronaldo could be a valuable mentor to many of the young players in ten Hag’s squad, and to some of the older players who have allowed their standards to drop in recent times.
In the right circumstances, Ronaldo could still offer United something they are otherwise lacking. His poaching instincts remain as sharp as ever. If the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen and Jadon Sancho create the opportunities, Ronaldo will convert them. That could make a big difference by the end of the season.
It is up to Ronaldo, though, to accept he can no longer make the biggest clubs bend to his will. Instead, he must bend to theirs to prolong his time at the elite level of the European game. If he cannot do this, the 37-year-old is destined to suffer a frustrating, and unsuccessful, final phase of his career. Ronaldo might not want to be at Manchester United, but he must comprehend why he doesn’t have another option.