There’s an old saying “Never go back”, simplistic but rarely wrong. Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford was in many ways, a thing of beauty. Heralded as the return of the King. In reality, it was a move that seemed to fit the huge commercial entity rather than the football team. 

Ronaldo’s Return 

The Portuguese legend was his usual goalscoring self in his first season back at United. Finishing the campaign with 24 goals. However, the team’s overall performances were as bad as they’ve ever been. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked after a disastrous start to the season and Ralf Rangnick was appointed on an interim basis. The German seemed to pick and choose when to play Ronaldo due to his limitations in pressing from the front. Ronaldo was left out of the Manchester Derby and a few other key fixtures. A sign of things to come perhaps. 

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Squad Status Diminished Under Ten Hag 

The new manager, Erik ten Hag has clearly improved the team. There is more cohesion and urgency to their play. The Red Devils are performing with newfound belief and have markedly departed from the Ronaldo-centric team of last season. 

The former Real Madrid man is clearly struggling to come to terms with his new role as seen by his disgraceful exit in midweek against Tottenham. His behavior was totally unacceptable. Showing respect to your teammates, your manager and your club’s supporters are among the fundamentals in football.  His refusal to come on as a substitute, as the manager has confirmed, was an indictment on his professionalism. 

“The talk is between Cristiano and me. The statement is clear,” Ten Hag said on Friday when asked if he had been in conversation with Ronaldo. When asked if Ronaldo refused to come on, Ten Hag replied: “Yes.”

He added:

“I am here to manage (the situation). I am responsible for the top culture here. I have to set the standards and values and control them. We are a team and we have standards and values.

Ten Hag also said that he punished Ronaldo to set an example for the rest of his team.

“Reflection for him. But also for everyone else,” he said when asked why Ronaldo was training alone. “There has to be consequences. When you live together and play together, football is a team sport. I have to control it.

“It is about Chelsea and it is a big game. All my focus is on that game.”

At this point, it’s hard to see a sustainable way back for Ronaldo. The fans who once adored and defended him fiercely are beginning to turn on him. His performances when he has actually played this season have been mediocre. All things considered, this has not been a happy return to his former stomping ground.

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