Cristiano Ronaldo has pulled the skeletons out of the Manchester United closet.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, in an exclusive interview with Piers Morgan of The Sun, alleged that Manchester United coach Erik Ten Hag and some of the senior executives of the board are trying to push him out of the club.
"I feel betrayed. I feel some people don't want me in the team, not only this year but last year too," Ronaldo was quoted as saying by UK-based tabloid.
Since signing for Manchester United 14 months ago, he has already worked under three coaches: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Ragnick, and Erik Ten Hag.
For his former teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked just weeks after Ronaldo returned, he has nothing but respect.
For the other two, Ralf Rangnick and current manager Erik Ten Hag, he has little good to say.
Of Rangnick, who had not managed a football team for over a decade, he says: “If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United? I’d never even heard of him.”
Of Ten Hag, who suspended Ronaldo last month for refusing to come on as a last-minute substitute against Tottenham, he says: “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.”
If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.
Ronaldo on Ten Hag
His homecoming was a fairytale in itself when he snubbed local rivals Manchester City at the behest of mentor and father figure Sir Alex Ferguson whose call made him change his decision.
“I followed my heart. He (Sir Alex) said to me, ‘It’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City’, and I said, ‘OK, Boss’.”
The Portugal winger started his 2nd United stint with a bang, scoring twice in a 4-1 win over Newcastle. But very soon, the reality lay bare in front of him.
This was a very different Manchester United to the club he first departed in 2009.
Or rather, to his dismay, it was just the same, and hadn’t moved on at all, and was now run by what he perceives to be inferior people to those who ran things before.
He was shocked by the lack of improvements to training facilities, from the pool and the gym to the kitchen (nutrition and diet), and in technology.
“The progress was zero,” he sighs. “Since Sir Alex left, I saw no evolution in the club. Nothing had changed.”
Most pertinently, he was disillusioned to find that, after years of failure and stagnation, United could no longer sign the world’s very best players, making their chance of winning top trophies much harder.
“I think the fans should know the truth,” he said.
“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 for what Sir Alex thinks of the current situation, Ronaldo says: “He knows better than anybody that the club is not on the path they deserve to be.
"He knows. Everyone knows. The people who don’t see that… it’s because they don’t want to see; they are blind.”
Ronaldo said he felt dismayed with the club's lack of empathy when he and his partner Georgina suffered the loss of their baby son during childbirth, a heart-breaking tragedy in which the boy’s twin sister survived.
When his three-month-old daughter was hospitalised in July, and he could not return on time for pre-season training because he wanted to stay with her, Ronaldo said some senior executives at Old Trafford doubted him when he explained why he couldn’t return, which made him feel “hurt” and “bad”.
After these high-voltage revelations, it’s hard to see how Cristiano Ronaldo return to the playing field for Manchester United.
For now, he wants to focus on the World Cup, and win it for Portugal, and then come back and resolve things with United, one way or another.