Manchester United players think Cristiano Ronaldo will try to leave the club in January after being denied an exit back in the summer transfer window, reports say. The Portugal international is yet to score from seven appearances across all competitions this term. And he’s currently behind Marcus Rashford in the pecking order, while Anthony Martial’s return from injury could also see the veteran’s game time reduce even further.
Manchester United saw the best of Ronaldo following his Hollywood homecoming from Juventus 12 months ago.
The Portugal international was a shining light as the club lurched from one crisis to another under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, scoring 24 goals across all competitions.
However, after missing Erik ten Hag’s first pre-season in the job, the veteran has struggled for action.
Ronaldo has managed to make just two starts so far, with the Portugal international drawing a blank in defeats to Brentford and Real Sociedad.
And he’s been left on the bench for the club’s last four Premier League matches, with United putting Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester and Arsenal to the sword.
Now, according to The Sun, United players think Ronaldo will try to push for a move away in January.
The 37-year-old had wanted to leave in the summer, shortly after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League.
He was linked with Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Napoli and Borussia Dortmund at various stages of the transfer window, only to end up failing to join any of them.
Ronaldo also received an offer from an unnamed club in Saudi Arabia, though didn’t want to move to the Middle East while he’s still got plenty to offer.
An insider is quoted as speaking out, insisting the veteran will have to get used to spending more time on the bench going forward.
They said: “All the players loved it when Ronaldo came back to United last season but they are frustrated he missed pre-season.
“The manager put a lot of work into giving the squad detailed information about what he wanted them to do and how he wanted them to play.
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“Ronaldo is not up to speed with that and is relying on instinct when he plays. But that doesn’t work in Ten Hag’s system.
“He often demands the ball too early in build-up play and drops deep for the ball, but that means when the ball is wide there is no-one in the middle to hit it into.
“Ten Hag and the rest of the players really rate Ronaldo.
“But it’s clear that the success they have had this season is from following tactical instruction rather than the individual brilliance they relied on last season.
“Ronaldo is likely to find himself on the bench again going forward.
“And he is going to have to get used to scoring a lot less goals because he is only being introduced towards the end of games when Ten Hag has already made changes which make United less attacking.
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“He needs to realise it’s only going to work if he tunes into ten Hag’s plans.”
With Martial set to return from injury in the foreseeable future, Ronaldo may fall even further down Ten Hag’s pecking order.
And it’s shaping up to be a difficult campaign for the former Juventus and Real Madrid star, after years of playing at the very top.
Gabriel Agbonlahor, meanwhile, has spoken out on Ronaldo and thinks six of his team-mates are benefitting from the decision to regularly leave him on the bench.
“Man United look a lot better now, they look more organised and like they have a better team spirit,” he said.
“Everyone was calling for Man United to drop Ronaldo and play players who want to press and they are reaping the benefits.
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“You look at [Christian] Eriksen and [Bruno] Fernandes in the middle creating and [Scott] McTominay’s looking good.
“Antony looks like a great signing. [Jadon] Sancho is starting to want to take players on and Rashford is looking like we want to see and thought we had.
“This amazing Rashford is a guarantee for the World Cup with the way he’s playing.
“It’s looking better at Man United. What it has done as well has probably forced [Todd] Boehly’s hand at Chelsea to think ‘If I don’t change this soon we might not make the top-four’.
“There are at least six teams fighting for the top four. There is no reason why Chelsea are guaranteed to get it or Spurs or Arsenal.
“United will be fancying themselves on their recent form to get into the top four.”