LARGER THAN LIFE Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan dominated headlines last week. Pic: Sportsfile
The Way I See It
IT was never going to end well, was it?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the Theatre of Dreams, an arena he left with his legendary status ploughed deep into its hallowed turf, ended in tears the second time around.
Well, technically it’s not over just yet. But as we speak Man United’s legal eagles are diving deep into his fat contract to find a way of consigning it to the paper shredder.
It’s not how we United supporters predicted the ‘Second Coming’ to unfold (or wanted it too), but few can argue that this is the best decision for all concerned after his tell-all interview with the insufferable Piers Morgan last week.
The interview took the world by storm. In it Ronaldo confidently claimed that United supporters have always supported him and will always do so, even after this week.
However, a survey conducted by The Athletic last Thursday told a different story.
They asked their Man United subscribers their thoughts on the two-part interview and an incredible 80 percent want his contract terminated.
More than 90 percent believe he is unable to justify ‘feeling betrayed’ and a similar number feel Ten Hag hasn’t treated him unfairly — all of which he has claimed.
A damning result for Ronaldo, who is arguably the sport’s best ever player, depending who you talk to, but revered so deeply by Man United supporters.
For the record, I am one of those who will side with Ronaldo in ‘The Great Debate’.
I won’t lie, my heart broke slightly when news broke of the interview and the subsequent aftershock of the snippets being released online. It raised many questions and, unfortunately, very few were asked by the esteemed interviewer, who appeared more like a doting fan boy than the credible journalist he would have you believe he is.
The Truth Hurts
THIS columnist would be lying if we said that a lot of the interview didn’t have a lot of substance that United supporters would agree with,.
Hopefully by raising these issues for all to hear, some improvements might be made.
I’ve no doubt that at least some of Ronaldo’s intentions were exactly that.
The Portuguese star gave some incredible insight about the operations of the club; how little has changed in terms of facilities and technology since before he left for his then world record fee to Real Madrid.
He also spoke of the poor attitude displayed by some of the young players at the club, how he turned down a move to Manchester City when United came calling for a second time, and the strange appointment of Ralf Ragnick as interim manager.
They were hard truths and difficult not to disagree with him on. The magnitude of him airing United’s dirty laundry is humungous and quite humiliating for those concerned.
But it was the second part of the interview that contained the juicy revelations and the ones that, ultimately, shaped the public opinion against him.
IT was slightly excruciating to watch Ronaldo speak of how he felt ‘betrayed’ and ‘provoked’ by Erik ten Hag over how this season has played out, adding that he has ‘no respect’ for the Dutchman because, ‘If you don’t have respect for me, I am never going to have respect for you’.
Piers was lapping this up, appearing dismayed and insulted at the thought of Ronaldo being upset by a mere mortal. He returned with positively loaded questions that would only feed Ronaldo’s ego even more.
Not once did he confront him or question what he said. It could have started with a simple: ‘Do you accept that you are not the player you once were and can’t expect treatment as if you were?’.
Furthermore, Ronaldo appeared in complete denial about his fading superpowers and a player crying out for special attention.
Morgan then allowed Ronaldo to petulantly insult the likes of Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville for airing their opinion – correct ones – on the saga. And he failed to push back even once on the claim that Ronaldo was offered €350 million for two years football with a Saudi club, or how he didn’t want to leave the club last summer at all despite receiving interest from other clubs.
This is, after all, the interviewer who would go toe-to-toe with the likes of Donald Trump and Andrew Tate, yet was too busy salivating at Ronaldo to do likewise.
But look, this interview was more about Ronaldo than Morgan and the sad ending to what was only last year a beautiful fairy-tale.
Ronaldo made a career of making the impossible seem possible, but yet not even him in his immense maturity can debunk that theory of never returning for a second crack of the whip.
It would be wrong to suggest his legacy at United is ruined. Temporarily it will leave a sour feeling in a lot of United supporters’ mouths, but one we will all eventually get over.
It’s not the first time a United legend has left on bad terms and it won’t be the last.
But the curtain coming down is filled with heartbreak and disappointment because, as much as Ronaldo claims he conducted the interview in the best interests of the club, it’s hard to believe it was anything more than a self-indulgence exercise.
Erik ten Hag was brought in to pick up the pieces and rebuild a club losing its identity due to successive policy failures and a greedy ownership.
The first stanza of that operation, as bumpy as it may have been at times, has been navigated well by the manager and he has gained the backing of the Stretford End.
So for Ronaldo to try and undermine that progress due to his own struggles suggests he feels bigger than the club.
And as the great Sir Alex Ferguson so often said, that’s when you cut them loose.