CHRIS WHEELER: Ronaldo and Man Utd love affair ends in messy divorce

CHRIS WHEELER: Cristiano Ronaldo and Man United’s love affair has ended in a messy divorce – and with few tears shed on both sides… there was no way back for him at Old Trafford after breaking just about every rule in the book this season

  • Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United by mutual consent this week
  • United confirmed Ronaldo’s second stint at the club is over on Tuesday night
  • There was no other option for the club after his tell-all chat with Piers Morgan
  • Ronaldo broke just about every rule in the book at Old Trafford this season
  • Erik ten Hag’s life will now be a lot easier without the 37-year-old in his ranks 

From the moment Cristiano Ronaldo shook hands with Piers Morgan at the end of their blistering TV interview, both men knew his time at Manchester United was up.

Ronaldo had tried the hissy fits and histrionics. He had staged a disappearing act after refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham last month.

When all that failed and manager Erik ten Hag took him back after three days on the naughty step, Ronaldo decided he had to go nuclear.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at Man United was up as soon as his chat with Piers Morgan ended

United confirmed Ronaldo has left the club by mutual consent with immediate effect

His comments about the club, the Glazers, Ten Hag and his own team-mates broke just about every rule in the book and left United with no choice but to act.

No man is bigger than the club, as David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy will testify. United spent four days consulting their lawyers before issuing a statement on Tuesday night confirming that Ronaldo is history.

So the love affair between United and their iconic No 7 has ended in a rather messy divorce. It is what the player and his agent Jorge Mendes have been pushing for since the summer. There will be few tears shed at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has lost out on £16million but he is a free agent this morning and it would be amazing if Mendes didn’t have something lined up.

Ronaldo’s interview with Morgan gave United no choice but to part company with him

He has broken almost every rule in the book this season, including storming out of Old Trafford

Given that his client turned down an offer north of £300m in the summer to play in Saudi Arabia, that kind of money can be quickly recouped — even if it will now be hard to find a club willing to match the £500,000 a week he was earning at United. As long as Ronaldo is prepared to take a pay-cut, there will be plenty of teams happy to take him for the rest of the season.

Mendes and Ronaldo met with Bayern Munich earlier this month, and this is a player who still feels he belongs on the Champions League stage.

In the end, Ronaldo simply could not stomach a bit-part role at United after what he had achieved during, and since, his first spell at the club.

Not only had the standards slipped, he was not even United’s main man in the new order. When Ten Hag tried to bring him on as an 87th-minute substitute against Spurs, that was the final insult.

Does the manner of Ronaldo’s departure tarnish his image at United? It’s hard to see how it does not, but he is too vain to care. When people look back at one of the club’s greatest players, they won’t be able to airbrush out the fact he betrayed United in the worst way possible.

Erik ten Hag’s life will be a lot easier without the unhappy 37-year-old in his ranks at United

Even when he top-scored with 24 goals last season, you could argue that Ronaldo wasn’t the best fit for United. This season, age appears to have caught up with him. He may still be a supreme physical specimen at 37, but even he can’t defy time.

When Vincent Kompany was asked, tongue in cheek, by Gary Lineker if he would take Ronaldo at Burnley, the Belgian said on BBC One on Tuesday night: ‘We need players who can run!’

Ronaldo has looked a yard slower after sitting out pre- season, and could no longer justify being an automatic starter.

Wayne Rooney alluded to it after he came under fire from Ronaldo. ‘Age comes to all of us,’ said Rooney. ‘Cristiano, obviously, is feeling that and has found it hard to deal with.’

Where does his departure leave United and Ten Hag? The simple answer is better off. The team have been better without him this season and Ten Hag’s job will certainly be easier. From the moment the Dutchman walked through the door he has been fielding awkward questions about Ronaldo, and the player’s comment that he has no respect for the manager could have been damaging in the extreme.

There will be no tears shed on either side as Ronaldo’s United story draws to a final conclusion

Ten Hag has been trying to mould a vibrant young team based on his philosophy and code of discipline, and that was increasingly difficult with a stroppy superstar trying to undermine him.

Anthony Martial will be fit and fresh to lead the attack when the season resumes next month. Marcus Rashford is rejuvenated and there are plenty of other attacking options at Ten Hag’s disposal.

It’s possible he will sign a forward in January, but United might wait until the summer to get a long-term replacement.

Either way, his life has just got a whole lot easier.

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