Cristiano Ronaldo and his future at Manchester United has been one of the biggest talking points of the summer. The Portuguese icon rejoined United last summer, but after the team endured a somewhat disappointing season, he’s said to have asked to leave the club so he can continue playing for a side competing in the Champions League.
Ronaldo, 37, proved he can still cut it at the top level of the game after registering twenty-four goals for United spread across the Premier League (18) and the Champions League (6). But, United finishing sixth means that they won't be competing in Europe's top club competition for at least another season, and Ronaldo isn't prepared to wait and see. This is in spite of the fact that there is hope that new manager Erik ten Hag can begin to get the club moving in the right direction again on the pitch.
United, who toured Asia and Australia in pre-season, had to watch on as their talisman remained in Portugal, citing family reasons for his continued absence. But, the Portuguese attacker finally made his return to the fold when playing for forty-five minutes against Rayo Vallecano before being withdrawn at halftime. While Ronaldo has posted on social media to suggest he’s been working hard to stay in shape ahead of his United return, he’s likely to be behind those who have participated in the pre-season programme, which could see him benched for the season opener at home to Brighton.
Throughout pre-season, ten Hag has deployed a three-pronged attack that has often consisted of Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. And, the trio are likely to start the game against the Seagulls, even if Ronaldo proves his fitness to his new boss. All three possess the pace and energy that ten Hag is looking for, and a successful result matched by a good performance could lead to Ronaldo being benched for the foreseeable future.
Last season Ronaldo was said to have reacted at the prospect of being named as a substitute in the Manchester derby by suggesting he was injured and flying back to Portugal. So, it’s likely not going to go down well if the multiple-time Balon d’Or is fit and ready to play but is overlooked in favour of Anthony Martial, who is seen as a central striker at present by ten Hag.
Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, who continues to work hard to find an agreement where his client can leave Old Trafford amicably this summer, is reported to have been offering the player around in an effort to drum up interest but has so far drawn a blank. For some, a parting of ways is seen as a good thing, as it would remove the circus that surrounds Ronaldo from the equation, allowing United to focus on what matters. The club would also significantly reduce their wage bill, and it could enable them to bring a replacement of ten Hag’s choosing.