Cristiano Ronaldo may have already played his last game for Manchester United in the wake of growing transfer speculation on Sunday.
The five-times Ballon d’Or winner returned to Old Trafford in summer 2021 in what was seen as a dream move. However, despite scoring 24 times for the Red Devils last season, his return to the club has quickly turned sour.
Indeed, their failure to qualify for the Champions League this season saw rumours of Ronaldo’s unhappiness gather pace. And while a number of clubs continue to distance themselves from his signature, speculation over his future continues to rage.
As a result of those attempts to leave, Ten Hag has tried to wean his side off their reliance on the Portuguese superstar. As such, Ronaldo has started just 10 games for United so far this season.
And with Ronaldo failing to command a regular shirt at United, his sister has already pointed an accusing finger at Ten Hag.
The United manager, however, has done his best to defuse any simmering tensions. He recently named Ronaldo as one of the club’s six leaders, handing him the armband for their recent loss at Aston Villa.
Despite those words of reassurance, rumours of Ronaldo’s impending exit are gathering pace. TEAMtalk revealed recently how a return to Sporting Lisbon is gathering pace after a change of heart from their manager.
Now reports are growing that Ronaldo may already have played his final game for the club.
United are away to Fulham on Sunday in their final game before the break for the World Cup. But the Portuguese superstar will reportedly not be part of Ten Hag’s travelling party, reports the Manchester Evening News.
Ronaldo and Man Utd heading for a parting of ways
They claim his absence is likely to be put down to illness – the same reason that saw him miss Thursday’s 4-2 win over Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.
Now the Daily Mirror reports that with Ten Hag sanctioning his January exit, he may have worn a United shirt for the final time.
Once the World Cup is complete, United will only have three games before the January window opens for business. But the paper claims he is unlikely to be picked again as his exit away from Old Trafford nears.
Even Ronaldo’s former teammate and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville thinks Ronaldo should leave United in January.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ The Overlap, Neville has argued why a parting of ways is best for all concerned.
“Do you know I think he should do? I think he should actually speak. No one has heard him speak for six months. You don’t hear from him.”
Neville also reckons Ten Hag has managed the saga well, adding: “I think he’s handled it so well. I even thought Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] to an extent and [Ralf] Rangnick last season handle him quite well at times when he obviously wasn’t happy.
“I think Erik ten Hag has handled it far better than most of us would have handled it. He’s basically sailing the ship into the shore as I see it.
Exit path smoothed over
“I said a couple of weeks ago, I hope there has been a deal done that says in January you can leave. For both of them, Cristiano Ronaldo and the club. But they should make sure it looks really good until then so doesn’t look like a mess.
“I am hoping this is what it is. He’s playing, he’s captain. It looks like they smoothed things over and then he leaves in January.”
If Neville is right and the path is smoothed for Ronaldo to leave, that would be the ideal scenario for all parties. And it would not tarnish his legacy at the club if he leaves on the best possible terms. That is as important for United as it is for the player.
Should that be his second spell at United over, Ronaldo will depart Old Trafford with 27 goals in 54 appearances.
READ MORE: Five reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo wants end to second spell at Man Utd rapidly becoming a nightmare
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