Ronaldo’s exit marks final curtain on his waning power at Manchester United – The Guardian

Cchristian Ronaldo’s last outing on Manchester United marked two significant ends. The final curtain on supporters’ unconditional love for a pouty superstar who, as an unused substitute, couldn’t stomach sticking around to celebrate scintillating win over Tottenham. It is also the death knell of this 37-year-old superstar being of importance – to Erik ten Hag and the United side he seeks to build.

Both are connected. Fans witness their team’s best display in recent memory and see a man who pulls in around £500,000 a week grumpy as Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen and Anthony Elanga were preferred as his manager made changes. They watch a footballer who enjoys unadulterated hero status for his brilliance throw it back in their faces by acting as if he can and should overshadow their club.

More material is how to make a second stomp in less than three months underlines the decline of Ronaldo’s power. In July, at half time of a friendly against Rayo Vallecano, Ten Hag had the temerity to replace a player who was not close to equal fitness after missing most of preseason (due to a family problem). Ronaldo’s reaction was to leave Old Trafford before the final whistle in a first challenge to the authority of the new administrator. This was also a squad member who at the beginning of the summer emitted smoke signals that he wanted to leave.

Cut to Sunday and United show class in honoring Ronaldo’s remarkable achievement of 700 club goals with an on-screen appearance by Sir Alex Ferguson, which was followed with (now hardly news) displeasure at being removed during the goalless draw with Newcastle.

Three days later, Ten Hag restored Marcus Rashford to the XI at the expense of Ronaldo. The 52-year-old, whose management blends people skills, intelligence, tactical acumen and a hard edge, was succinct in explaining why. His legs, simply, were not up to the “good press” needed to fight Antonio Conte’s visitors.

Cue Tottenham being stifled expertly as the tactical ploy worked a dream, with Fred and Bruno Fernandes goals giving United a nice triumph. Everything without Ronaldo, whose avoidance of Ten Hag even as a substitute showed his retreat into further insignificance, was previously a substitute only in the victories over Liverpool (2-1) and Arsenal (3-1). Because a damning verdict of Ten Hag on the import of Ronaldo was found, also, in the manager ignoring him when the team took a major beating at Manchester City (6-3): instead, Rashford and Jadon Sancho were the calvary Ten Hag sent for.

It is hardly Ronaldo’s fault that he is in the winter of a brilliant career. But what he could do is accept this while continuing to fight – the right way – for a starting spot. What will be the next episode in the Ronaldo soap operas, although watching Ten Hag suggests the manager will play a shrewd hand. For Wednesday’s blow he will surely fine Ronaldo and while any action can be kept in-house, there is the material question of how the team-mates he left on Wednesday view the ill-tempered superstar.

Cristiano Ronaldo walks through the tunnel to leave
Cristiano Ronaldo goes through the tunnel to leave in front at the end of the game against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Photo: Matt West/Shutterstock

Respect may be evaporating – not for the talent, hard work, serial silverware, personal honors and the 817 career finishes – but for a character who continues to suggest being the antithesis of the all-for-one spirit that Ten Hag knows is essential to achieve . success

The manager will be aware that Ronaldo can still be a potent weapon – especially off the bench – so expect him to offer a quiet send-off at Friday’s media conference when asked about the issue, the player’s value and his future. Each and every answer will be analyzed for subtext because the inescapable truth is that the ideal scenario – for Ten Hag, his group and Ronaldo – would be for the player to leave as soon as possible – which is in the January window.

Few (if any) clubs being able to afford a player on Ronaldo’s salary was a dominant reason why he didn’t leave in the summer. But if this same issue seems to remain regarding the winter market, as the side develops it feels more and more irrelevant. Coming out on Wednesday, Ronaldo reinforced Ten Hag’s assessment that he is peripheral to United – there to be deployed when and if needed, but by no means a shock to the XI given former glories and a glittering CV.

As a metaphor, also, for his second coming to United (after the 2003-09 spell) Ronaldo stepping away is apt: it shows the feeling of him as a cipher, a garlanded perfectionist who, despite being one of the greats, remains. unknowable, whose profile beyond the pitch is through image-conscious, choreographed social media, with the real person fiercely guarded.

Perhaps he will take this opportunity to change a little with some soul-searching that could lead to an apology issued for Wednesday evening and the revelation of the man behind the mask. Maybe, though, he won’t.

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