The afternoon of 11 September 2021 was a magical one for Manchester United fans as it marked the return of the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford. The legend had made his name at the great club before departing for sunnier shores in 2009, and this time he was back with a vengeance.
A capacity crowd watched the Portuguese superstar score two goals against Newcastle United - in a game that confirmed the Red Devils’ status as serious title challengers. Backed with an elite forward line, including the recently-signed Jadon Sancho, United looked to be heading back to their glory days.
Fast forward one year later, however, and the landscape of Manchester United has changed entirely. The 2021/22 season that started with so much optimism ended up in disaster. Humiliating defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, and Watford rendered Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's position untenable, and Ralf Rangick was unable to make any significant change.
The glitz and glamour of Ronaldo’s return seems like a distant memory now, and his explosive interview with Piers Morgan served as the nail in the coffin of his United career. Whether you believe the player was in the right or not, I think everybody agrees that nobody wanted Ronaldo’s story to end up like this.
I can praise Piers Morgan all day long, and I often do, but his interview created a rift between CR7 and Manchester United that will likely never be healed. With Romelu Lukaku giving a similarly-controversial interview last year, I worry that these interviews will become the norm for players who feel underappreciated.
Players have far too much power over their clubs these days. I came from a generation that knuckled down and got on with it, whereas the youth of today seem to be content doing the bare minimum. Ronaldo is, unfortunately, caught in the crossfire of two generations, and has to adapt to the new one at his club.
Many people have criticsed Ronaldo’s ‘whinging’ attitude in his Piers Morgan interview, finding it laughable that he finds his situation so bad as the nation wrestles with a cost-of-living crisis. I’d be inclined to agree with them, but keep in mind that the cost-of-living crisis does not affect me whatsoever.
Where Ronaldo ends up from here remains a mystery, as it’s unlikely any club is going to jump at the chance to work with him after his infamous interview. The striker is also on a £500,000-per-week wage - an insane amount for any player, yet alone one rapidly approaching 40.
As we rapidly approach England’s inevitable World Cup victory, let’s take a moment to consider everything Ronaldo has given our league across his two spells at Manchester United. Without him, our nation may not have grown into the powerhouse it currently is.
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