Ronaldo Betrayed by Man United
He’s had enough of the sniping, the sneering, and the endless blame-game bulls*** that’s been flung at him over the past few months.
It’s come from the media, his bosses, work colleagues and even former team-mates.
Above all, he’s had enough of the lack of basic respect that he feels he’s due after winning 32 trophies, including five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues, seven league titles in four different countries, and a Euros with Portugal.
Ronaldo, 37, is the highest goal scorer in football history and for me, and many more qualified to pass judgment such as Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti, the greatest to ever play the game.
He’s also the most-followed human being on Instagram, the modern-day metric of star power, and is about to pass half a billion followers.
But right now he feels angry, and disrespected, and he’s not going to stay silent any longer.
As he prepares to fly to Qatar for his fifth — and almost certainly last — World Cup, he wants to have HIS say.
We sat down for a 90-minute TV interview for my show Piers Morgan Uncensored that is by far the most explosive he has ever given.
Ronaldo finally sets the record straight about what he calls the “most difficult period of my life”, both professionally and personally.
He says he feels “betrayed” by the way he has been treated by Manchester United, annoyed that he’s been made a “black sheep” who is blamed for everything that has gone wrong at the club, and believes he is now being actively forced out.
At work, he has had three bosses in just over a year.
For the first, his former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was sacked just weeks after Ronaldo returned, he has nothing but respect.
For the other two, Ralf Rangnick and current manager Erik ten Hag, he has little good to say.
Of Rangnick, who had spent just two years of the last decade as a manager, he says: “If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United? I’d never even heard of him. “Of Ten Hag, who suspended Ronaldo last month for refusing to come on as a last-minute substitute against Tottenham, he says: “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me.
“If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
As for some of his most vociferous critics, like another former team-mate Wayne Rooney who has publicly attacked Ronaldo for months and urged United to get rid of him, he is witheringly scornful of their headline-grabbing motives.
He says: “I don’t know why he criticizes me so badly . . . probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at high level.”
Then he chuckles and adds: “I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true . . . ”
At home, back in April, he and his partner Georgina suffered the unbearable loss of their baby son during childbirth, a heart-breaking tragedy in which the boy’s twin sister survived.
Somehow, he found the strength to continue playing, fueled in part by the astonishing support he received from fans of rival clubs such as Liverpool, where the crowd sang You’ll Never Walk Alone on the seventh minute (Ronaldo wears No 7 on his shirt) of their next home game.
He admits: “I never expected to see that.”
He and Georgina also received a personal note of condolence from the Royal Family, which amazed and touched him in equal measure.
Shockingly, he was less well supported by his club who he accuses of a lack of “empathy”, especially when his three-month-old daughter was hospitalized in July, and he could not return on time for pre-season training because he wanted to stay with her.
Ronaldo says senior executives at Old Trafford even doubted him when he explained why he couldn’t return, which made him feel “hurt” and “bad”.
This wasn’t how the fairy tale was supposed to end.
It was just over 14 months ago that Ronaldo sensationally re-signed for Manchester United in a comeback story that stunned and enthralled the world of football.
He was heading to United’s great rivals Manchester City when a personal appeal from his great mentor and father figure, Sir Alex Ferguson, drove him back to where he started.
This wasn’t how the fairy tale was supposed to end.
“I followed my heart,” he says simply, tapping his chest. “He (Sir Alex) said to me, ‘It’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City’, and I said, ‘OK, Boss’.”
In his first game back at Old Trafford, the self-styled “Theatre of Dreams”, he scored twice in a thumping 4-1 victory over Newcastle, cheered on in the stands by Sir Alex and Ronaldo’s ecstatic weeping mother.
The delirious United fans chanted “Viva Ronaldo” for hours after the game.
As his team-mate Marcus Rashford tweeted that night: “Like he never left.”
But very soon, cold, hard reality hit. This was a very different Manchester United to the club he first departed in 2009.
Or rather, to his dismay, it was just the same, and hadn’t moved on at all, and was now run by what he perceives to be inferior people to those who ran things before.
He was shocked by the lack of improvements to training facilities, from the pool and the gym to the kitchen (nutrition and diet), and in technology.
“The progress was zero,” he sighs. “Since Sir Alex left, I saw no evolution in the club. Nothing had changed.”
And he was dismayed by the dismissive attitude of many of the younger players, who seemed to have no interest in learning the lessons he had gleaned in his magnificent career.
Most notably, he was disappointed that after years of failure and stagnation, United could no longer sign the best players in the world, making their chances of lifting the top trophy much more difficult.
“I think the fans need to know the truth,” he said. “I want the best for the club. That’s why I came to Manchester United.
“But they had some things there that didn’t help us reach the top level like City, Liverpool and even now Arsenal. . . A club of this size should be at the top of the tree in my opinion and unfortunately it isn’t.”
The crux of his frustration is that Ronaldo hates losing and wants to operate in a winning environment – an environment he believes United do not currently have and which may require drastic steps to resolve issues, including his exit.
He said: “As Picasso said, you have to destroy it in order to rebuild it (the artist’s exact quote is: ‘Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
“I love Manchester United, I love the fans, they are always on my side. But if they want to do it differently … they have to change many, many things.”
What Sir Alex thinks about the current situation, Ronaldo said: “He knows better than anyone that the club is not on a proper path.
“He knows it. Everyone knows. People who don’t see it . . . it’s because they don’t want to see it; they’re blind.”
I first interviewed Cristiano three years ago in Turin, Italy, when he was still playing for Juventus and we ended up having dinner together for four hours.
Since then we have become very unlikely but very good friends. We texted and talked a lot and he was always very honest with me.
He is a very intelligent and personable man who takes great care in conducting these interviews.
I could feel the frustration and anger that had been building up inside him for months.
Ronaldo takes his football very seriously – and winning takes even more.
You can’t have all the trophies and records he has without having a very strong and tough mentality, a relentless work ethic, an incredibly intense competitive spirit and an unwavering belief that you are #1.
For someone like Ronaldo to suddenly find himself at a club that is not competing for the top silver medal and where he was dropped, dismissed, ignored, berated and even punished for the first time in his career last month has hit him hard.
Not least because he was the club’s top scorer with 24 goals last season.
He didn’t expect special treatment, but he did expect to be treated with the respect he felt he deserved.