There is an old adage in football, ‘never go back’. Over the years, experts have warmed players or managers against returning to their old stomping grounds for a romantic reunion.
The current situation between Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United adds weight to that opinion.
As Manchester United were celebrating one of their finest displays in a 2-0 win over Tottenham, Ronaldo managed to grab the headlines despite not making an appearance on the pitch. He left Old Trafford before the full-time whistle walking down the tunnel in the 89th minute from the bench.
Soon after this news overshadowed his side’s performance, manager Erik ten Hag said he will “deal with” the issue. This led to the Dutchman dropping Ronaldo from the squad for the game against Chelsea at the weekend.
Since then Ronaldo has come out and said he was caught in the ‘heat of the moment’ on his Instagram.
So what’s next for this seemingly fractured relationship between the Portugal forward and Manchester United?
Erik ten Hag shows Cristiano Ronaldo who’s the boss
In recent times we have seen many examples of player power ruling over those coaching at the club. However, ten Hag has drawn a significant line. He wants everyone to know that he’s running things around at the club and won’t take any prisoners even if it is the five-time Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
If Ronaldo wanted to exert his authority and undermine the gaffer, this has overwhelmingly backfired.
Ten Hag took the action to drop him entirely for the game at Stamford Bridge and the board seems to back him. The former Ajax manager has also told Ronaldo to train separately until Monday as part of the disciplinary action.
In the summer many experts believed that Ronaldo’s presence could actually hamper the side rather than the other way round. Ten Hag’s style of football requires players to drop back and then push forward depending on the sequence of play, but Ronaldo isn’t the one to do that at his age.
This has reduced him to being a bit part player this season and he feels disrespected.
He also showed his angst at being substituted in the 0-0 draw against Newcastle United in the Premier League last week.
He doesn’t fit his style of play and in many games the team has done well when Ronaldo hasn’t featured.
Ronaldo may yet play a part this season but Ten Hag has shown him who rules the roost at the club. A manager at a massive club like United needs to take the big decisions and get them right and so far the Dutchman has done exactly that.
Is this the end of Ronaldo at Manchester United?
After being dropped for the Chelsea game, Ronaldo posted a message on his Instagram where he said that the ‘heat of the moment’ got to him and ‘soon we’ll be together again.
For the moment it seems he will stay at United. How long that will be is anybody’s guess. A summer move may be a possibility, but it won’t be a big surprise if the club is able to offload him in the January transfer window.
However, his contract is signed and ending it only after six months won’t be that easy.
Ten Hag will do well to keep the squad in harmony until a decision is reached. Luckily for both the parties the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will provide a welcome break and the issue can be resolved after that.
The legacy of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United will remain intact no matter what happens. But for now it is about redeeming himself in the eyes of the fans who idolize him.