"I feel betrayed," said Cristiano Ronaldo regarding his time at Manchester United during an exclusive interview with Piers Morgan on November 13. Fast forward to November 22 when Manchester United announced that they have terminated their contract with Cristiano Ronaldo, officially ending the Portuguese captain's second stint in the English club.
Back in the summer of 2021, when Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford after leaving Italian club giants Juventus FC, it was deemed nothing short of a dream homecoming for many fans.
But a lot can change in a year and now Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Manchester is officially over. But how will this contract termination affect both Ronaldo as a player and Manchester United as a club? Moreover, how did an interview sour the relationship between a club and their star player?
The Piers Morgan Interview
Ever since the arrival of new manager Erik Ten Hag at Old Trafford, things have not been the same for Cristiano Ronaldo. In the ongoing 2022-23 season of the Premier League, he only featured 10 times out of a total 14 under the management of Ten Hag and managed to score one goal. On average, Ronaldo has been a starter across various clubs and various leagues he has played It was also the first time Ronaldo featured in the UEFA Europa League for the first time in his career, where he featured six times and scored two goals in total.
His complicated relationship with Erik Ten Hag did reflect in the field occasionally. The Portuguese once refused to come in as a substitute in their Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspurs on October 20. As a punishment for refusing to come in as a substitute, United coach Ten Hag decided to keep Ronaldo out of the squad list for their league match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
In the interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo opened up on his situation with Manchester United. He claimed that the club hierarchy, including coach Erik Ten Hag, tried to forcefully sell him out, stating that he "felt betrayed" by the club.
When Morgan asked Ronaldo about his relationship with the current United manager, Ronaldo replied saying that he does not "have respect for him [Erik Ten Hag] because he doesn't show respect for him [Ronaldo]".
In the exclusive interview that lasted around 90 minutes, Ronaldo also spoke about Manchester United's situation ever since the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex was the one who saw a young Ronaldo back in 2003, going past through the United defence with ease which prompted him to ask the managerial board to sign the youngster from his boyhood club, Sporting CP.
Ronaldo said, "Since [former manager] Sir Alex [Ferguson] left, I saw no evolution in the club. Nothing had changed." The interview was quick to become an internet sensation, ultimately prompting the club to terminate its contract with the five-time Ballon D'or winner.
What It Means For Cristiano Ronaldo
With United terminating his contract, Cristiano Ronaldo is a free agent in club football. This means that any club around the world can approach the Portuguese and sign him for free, without paying anything to United as a 'transfer fee'.
For Ronaldo, it is an end of an era with a club that played a major role in his career and helped him rise up to fame. During his first stint with United and English football, Ronaldo was in Old Trafford for six seasons, where he scored a total of 118 goals. He enjoyed success with Manchester United on various levels, winning all trophies possible at the club level.
This includes three Premier League (2007, 2008 and 2009), one Champions League (2007-08), one FA Cup (2004), two Community Shields (2007 and 2008) and one FIFA Club World Cup in 2008 before ending his first stint and moving to the Spanish capital after Real Madrid signed him for a then-record £80 million fees.
He also won his first Ballon D'or as a United player for his sensational performance in the 2007-08 season. He also won his first European Golden Boot as the highest goalscorer in Europe with 31 goals for United in the 2007-08 season.
After returning to Old Trafford for his second spell, Ronaldo scored 27 goals and recorded a total of 103 goals in the English Premier League.
What It Means For Manchester United
The contract termination was a bitter end of the story between Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United. The club is likely to find it difficult to substitute a player like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Inside the pitch, the Portuguese provided some of the best memories for United fans with his goals, his assists and even his acceleration, including the famous FIFA Puskás Award-winning goal against Porto in the 2008-09 season of the Champions League. He was quick to become a sensation at a young age during his initial days at United under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Not just his footballing skills, brand Ronaldo had also become an essential part of the club. Ronaldo's jersey number seven is now famously known as CR7, a popular reference in contemporary football. Ronaldo's fan following has been a huge source of income for the brands he endorses and even his clubs, including Manchester United.
When the club announced Ronaldo's return back to Old Trafford in August 2021, it only took four hours to break Manchester United's daily shirt sale records. His departure is likely to affect United's finances and even the morale inside the pitch, where the veteran striker has been an idol for many current United players including Alejandro Garnacho.
Even after his transfer to Real Madrid, United found it hard to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with players like Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, and Alexis Sanchez, who could not match up to the legacy of United's famed jersey number 7 that once saw the likes of Eric Cantona and David Beckham wearing the shirt before Sir Alex Ferguson handed over the famed kit number to a young Ronaldo.
From here, Ronaldo is a free agent and Manchester United's jersey number seven will be empty as a new chapter begins for both parties. For Ronaldo, his love for Manchester United "will never ever change," but he feels like it's the right time to "seek a new challenge".
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