Neville slams Ronaldo for ‘unfair’ criticism of youngsters and Man Utd over lack of ‘proactive leadership’

Man Utd duo Gary Neville and Cristiano Ronaldo hug Credit: Alamy
Man Utd duo Gary Neville and Cristiano Ronaldo hug Credit: Alamy

Gary Neville is pleased to see how Erik ten Hag has handled Cristiano Ronaldo this season but he hit out at Man Utd for a lack of “proactive leadership”.

Ten Hag’s first few months of the Premier League season have been dominated by speculation surrounding the future of Ronaldo after he requested a transfer in the summer.

Ronaldo’s lack of game time under Ten Hag came to a head last month when the Man Utd striker refused to come off the bench in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham.

Ten Hag fined Ronaldo and made him train alone before the Portugal international apologised and was back on first-team duties the following week.

His manager even made him captain in a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa early this month and their relationship seeemed back on track until Sunday evening.

Talk TV released snippets of an interview between Ronaldo and Piers Morgan before airing the first part of the full interview last night with more to come this evening.

Ronaldo insisted he had no respect for Ten Hag and that he felt “betrayed” by Man Utd in an astonishing attack on numerous people inside the club.

Neville, who has praised Ten Hag’s professionalism this season, told Sky Sports: “I think Erik ten Hag has handled a very difficult first six months at United perfectly. I don’t think he could have done anything differently.

“Cristiano Ronaldo’s a monster of a player, a monster of a character, with a massive reach. He’s been in a bit of a difficult position because if he publicly takes him on, he’s probably not going to win.

“Privately, we know he has problems with Ronaldo because he keeps leaving him out. But Ronaldo, Ten Hag, the executives, sporting directors, owners, they should have got in a room a few weeks ago and said, ‘We don’t respect each other, we don’t like each other, we don’t want this to continue so let’s end it properly’. They’ve not done that – there’s not been proactive leadership. They’ve shied away from it thinking it’s going to be OK but that doesn’t happen in football, particularly when you’re dealing with such a big character. Ronaldo’s not going to accept that.

“When you’re a player, you do suffer from a bit of paranoia at times, when you think everyone’s against you. Not everyone’s against Ronaldo. In fact, he’s much loved in this city. Even if people are offering criticism of him, deep down they will still have enormous respect and love for him as a player, and for what he’s done for the game.

“Cristiano looks like someone who thinks the world’s against him – it doesn’t have to be like that. The club need to reach out to Cristiano and his advisers and navigate a way this ends very quickly. It’s becoming more unsavoury by the day and there’s no need for it to be like that.”

Ronaldo also criticised the young players at Man Utd and around the world who “don’t suffer” or “care” enough to have long and successful careers.

On his comments, Neville added: “I was disappointed when he criticised the young players. That’s what people used to say about us when we came through in the 1990s. It’s what late-30s, 40-year-old, 50-year-old people say about 16, 17, 18-year-olds and it’s not true.

“I actually think football players nowadays are more resilient than they were 20 years ago because of the criticism they get on social media and the scrutiny that’s on them. I think it’s unfair to criticise the young players.”

Man Utd team-mate Alejandro Garnacho had a few problems with his conduct over the summer but they have been ironed out recently.

Neville doesn’t think Ronaldo was referring to Garnacho with his comments but the former Man Utd defender reckons his former team-mate should’ve delayed his interview after seeing Garnacho score the winning goal against Fulham on the same day.

“I don’t know if Cristiano’s comments were directly at Garnacho, only Cristiano would know that,” Neville said. “I don’t think they were, maybe.

“One thing I would say is when the young boy scored that goal at Fulham on Sunday. It wasn’t a similar goal to the one Cristiano scored all those years ago at Fulham but it was in the same area of the pitch and it felt like a significant moment in that young player’s career, as that goal was for Cristiano that day. I’d have probably just rung Piers Morgan up and said, ‘Look just pull it back until tomorrow, let’s let the young kid have his night tonight, let’s let the young kid have the headlines tomorrow.’ I did think that was unwise, personally.

“On Sunday night, when his team-mate has just scored a last-minute winner, his team had scored a last-minute winner, the young boy had just scored a hero goal in a great moment, it would probably have been better for Cristiano to put back his announcement of his interview until Monday night off the back of it. But the reality is it’s gone out, it is what it is.”

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