It’s the bombshell interview that everybody is talking about. Cristiano Ronaldo, Piers Morgan and sensational sound bites that would suggest the 37-year-old’s career at Manchester United is all but over.
Ronaldo teased that this moment was coming; that he’d have his say on everything that has happened at United over the past six months amid widespread criticism from the media, his manager and former teammates over his behaviour at Old Trafford.
The long and short of it is that Ronaldo feels like he’s completely disrespected by those who should have stood by and supported him, and is not willing to stay silent ahead of a fifth appearance at the World Cup with Portugal.
It begs the question, has Ronaldo gone too far and should he be fearful of the disciplinary action United could take? Could the club even dismiss him for a breach of contract?
Ronaldo on Man Utd’s ‘betrayal’
“Yes. Not only the coach, but the other two or three guys around the club. I felt betrayed.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t care. People should hear the truth. Yes, I feel betrayed. Some people don’t want me here not only this year, but last year too.”
Ronaldo on nothing changing at Man Utd
“I don’t know what’s going on. Since Sir Alex Ferguson left I have seen not evolution in the club. The progress was zero. They stopped in time. I thought I would see different things, different technology, infrastructure, but unfortunately we see many things that I saw when I was 20, 21.
“For example, an interesting point is how a club like Manchester United sacked Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), they bring in a sporting director Ralf Rangnick which is something nobody understands. This guy is not even a coach! A big club like Manchester United bringing in a sporting director surprised not only me but all the world.
“Nothing changes. Not only the jacuzzi, the pool, even the gym. Even some points of technology, the kitchen, the chefs – who I appreciate, lovely people! They stop in time which surprised me a lot.
“I thought I would see different things, technology, infrastructure. Unfortunately, we see many things I’m used to seeing when I’m 21, 22, 23. It surprised me a lot.”
Ronaldo on not respecting Erik ten Hag
“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.”
Ronaldo on his ‘love’ for Man Utd
“I think the fans should know the truth,” the Portugal international added. “I want the best for the club. This is why I come to Manchester United.
“But you have some things inside that don’t help [us] reach the top level as City, Liverpool and even now Arsenal…a club with this dimension should be top of the tree in my opinion and they are not unfortunately.
“As Picasso said, you have to destroy it to rebuild it [the artist’s exact quote was: ‘Every act of creation is first an act of destruction’] and if they start with me, for me, it’s not a problem.
“I love Manchester United, I love the fans, they’re always on my side. But if they want to do it different… they have to change many, many things.”
90min understands that United are unsurprisingly furious with Ronaldo’s actions, and feel ‘blind-sided’ by his decision to speak out now.
The Red Devils have also been taken aback by Ronaldo’s criticism of Ten Hag, as they felt the pair were on ‘decent’ terms despite his infamous walk down the tunnel against Tottenham and the many faces of anguish he’s pulled on the bench this season.
So what can United realistically do about the situation? Can they take the ultimate action against Ronaldo?
Leading sports lawyer and partner at Leathes Prior, Dan Chapman, told 90min:
“Ronaldo’s interview is very unusual – for an existing, contracted player to carry out his own interview goes against the norms of the contractual relationship between players and their clubs, but also the media policies that will almost certainly be in place at Manchester United. One sees interviews like this from players after they leave a club, but rarely whilst they remain employed by a club.
“While one may think that Ronaldo ought to be entitled to freely express his opinions, he remains a current employer of Manchester United and is subject to the terms of his contract of employment. The contract that all Premier League players enter in to is largely standard form, which means that we are aware of some of the provisions which Ronaldo is almost certainly subject to. For example, he should not write or say anything which he knows (or ought to know) would bring Manchester United into disrepute or cause damage to it, and where he is interviewed (as was the case here), whether or not such interview breaches the club’s media policies, he has a duty to ensure his responses are made in a responsible manner and with the club’s reputation in mind.
“It seems to me that it is quite likely Ronaldo’s actions, both in terms of giving the interview and the comments he has made, will amount to a breach of his employment contract. This would entitle Manchester United to take disciplinary action against him, if they wanted to do so, and the most serious outcome would be that his contract could be terminated if after following the appropriate disciplinary process it was held that his actions amounted to gross misconduct. Such a conclusion is certainly theoretically possible, because the player’s contracts define gross misconduct as including a very serious breach of the terms of the employment contract, which this could be.
“In reality, we rarely see clubs dismissing elite players for gross misconduct because it is often less risky (and commercially more viable) to simply negotiate an exit for the player at the first available opportunity. It may be that Ronaldo is aware of this and is seeking an exit in January and that he felt he had very little to lose – in short, this may be one of those cases where the employee is relatively relaxed about the prospect of being dismissed. Ronaldo will have a team of advisors and it is hard to imagine that he and they were not fully aware of the potential consequences of this interview.”