It was back in August when a disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo told the world that he would soon reveal the ‘truth’ about his situation at Manchester United. Three months had passed since that ominous warning and until mid-November, all seemed to still be quiet on the western front.
Then, like a crack of the most ferocious thunder, the great Ronaldo shattered his silence and stuck to his word after an interview he had instigated with Piers Morgan was aired. In this 90-minute one-on-one, Ronaldo doesn’t hold back his views on everything to do with life at Old Trafford and needless to say, given that he has been so honest, the Portuguese superstar has come in for a barrage of criticism.
In many respects, it feels as if this interview where he went on to question Erik ten Hag’s appointment could well be the end of Ronaldo’s time at United. Although this seems like an outcome that Ronaldo has prepared for given that he will now be away on international duty with Portugal in Qatar until virtually the opening of the next transfer window. Having said that, how close Ronaldo gets to the 1st of January remains to be seen given that the latest FIFA World Cup betting prices Portugal at 14/1 to win the tournament in the Middle East. In other words, Portugal’s captain may be asked to report to Manchester for a few weeks in the lead-up to the transfer market opening if his nation suffers an early exit from the World Cup. Naturally, this could be a very uncomfortable development for the Nike athlete given the astonishing backlash that his interview has earned him.
Incredibly, this aforementioned torrent of anger being aimed in Ronaldo’s direction is mostly from ex-United players who have begun accusing the 37-year-old of being disrespectful to the club he plays for. However, the inescapable reality is that all of these ex-pros have been saying the same things for years now about the club they all purport to love. Indeed, whether it be on Rio Ferdinand’s podcast VIBE with FIVE, Gary Neville on Monday Night Football, or Paul Scholes on BT Sport’s coverage of the Champions League, they have all expressed the same concerns as Ronaldo. So, let’s dive into what the CR7 has said to prove that he hasn’t disrespected the Red Devils.
The failing infrastructure
One of the accusations that Ronaldo levels at Manchester United is that the infrastructure hasn’t been improved since he left the club in 2009. This is, of course, a startling admission when you consider that the Old Trafford club is one of the richest in world football yet still somehow dying a slow death with the walls literally crumbling, Although as shocking as it was to hear out loud, it is news football supporters have heard in some form or another. In particular, this is one of Neville’s most heartfelt grievances against the current ownership at United. Often, the former right-back will launch into an impassioned plea directed at the United owners when he is on air for Sky Sports by urging them to sell up because the club’s infrastructure is falling apart. In Neville’s eyes, it’s a disgrace that the ground and training facilities have fallen into disrepair. He is, of course, right, but then so is Ronaldo. In fact, there is no difference in the frustrations that the pair feel, so again, why is Ronaldo coming in for condemnation when Neville is lauded for consistently speaking out?
Stuck in time
Another insightful comment from Ronaldo’s interview was that Manchester United were seemingly “stuck in time”. This leads on from his point about the lack of investment, but it also goes deeper as he says that the personnel at the club haven’t changed either over the last 15-20 years. Now, this is an admission to consider carefully for a few reasons. On one hand, the most successful organizations in the world are known for their loyalty to staff who go above and beyond. At least, employees who help an institution thrive, are often seen as irreplaceable and treated as such. In United’s case though, the club is quite clearly not excelling which suggests that Ronaldo is not being unkind in his assessment that the corridors of Old Trafford and Carrington are feeling somewhat stale.
Put another way, there have been failures in the boardroom that have enabled an environment of mediocrity to manifest itself within the walls of Manchester United. It’s important to stress that the Ballon d’Or winner does also say that he appreciates all the work that the employees of the club do which is why you have to take his point from where it comes; the most successful businesses push their staff in order to achieve the best results and right now, there is a lack of ambition to be found at the club.
As touched on, Ronaldo is revisiting points that have been expressed by thousands of people before him. The only difference is that he is inside the ropes which helps give a crystal-clear picture of what life at Old Trafford really is like since Sir Alex Ferguson left. It may have caused a stir but, crucially, Ronaldo’s comments could also help drive the change that is so desperately needed at the club.