The Athletic, arguably the UK’s most respected football news outlet, has responded to news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview with celebrity bad guy Piers Morgan.
Morgan broke the news yesterday evening that he had conducted a 90-minute interview with the United player which is due to be aired on Wednesday and Thursday.
The much-loathed polemicist provided excerpts of the interview to his former employers, The Sun, in which Ronaldo said he has “no respect” for manager Erik ten Hag, feels “betrayed” by the club, accused Wayne Rooney of being jealous because he is still playing and is better looking than him.
He also said he had never even heard of Ralf Rangnick when he was appointed interim manager and also praised Liverpool fans for supporting him in a way United fans did not.
The story broke hours after United had gone into the World Cup break with a good away win at Fulham, courtesy of an injury time goal by new starlet, Alejandro Garnacho.
“Perhaps it didn’t cross Cristiano Ronaldo’s mind that maybe this wasn’t the night to make it all about him,” reporter Daniel Taylor writes.
“Then again, is anyone even remotely surprised — given everything we know about Ronaldo, good and bad — that he did not care greatly if he was spoiling, and souring, and sabotaging one of the happier occasions for Manchester United this season?”
Taylor pays due homage to the achievements of Ronaldo as a player but says “there is a difference between being a great footballer and a great football man. It is just a shame, perhaps, he has trouble sometimes amalgamating the two.”
The Athletic’s take on the interview is that it is Ronaldo’s way of forcing an exit from Old Trafford by making his continued presence untenable. The club is bound by a contract until June of £515,000 per week, meaning that if they were to terminate the deal, they would have to pay him over £15 million – plus any severance clause.
“The more he depicts himself as the victim, the more it becomes obvious that what he really wants is for the relevant people at Old Trafford to let him go,” Taylor says.
“It is Ronaldo who wants to force the issue. It is Ronaldo who has come to think of Old Trafford as a five-star prison. It is all a strategy, all carefully manoeuvred.”
The Mail’s Mike Keegan agrees, saying “Challenge now is to get him out at minimal cost. Good luck with that.”
Said it before and will say it again: Cristiano Ronaldo is holding Manchester United back and they should never have re-signed him. Challenge now is to get him out at minimal cost. Good luck with that. #mufc
— Mike Keegan (@MikeKeegan_DM) November 14, 2022
TalkSport and NBC’s Phil Brown goes one step further, saying “The only reason he didn’t do this interview months ago is because he wanted to use Utd to get fit for the World Cup. All he had to do was STFU and leave but his ego couldn’t handle his decline so he had to blame others.”
He doesn't deserve Utd, he betrayed Fergie again and the only reason he didn't do this interview months ago is because he wanted to use Utd to get fit for the World Cup. All he had to do was STFU and leave but his ego couldn't handle his decline so he had to blame others.
— Pilib De Brún (Phil Brown) (@Malachians) November 14, 2022
The reaction of leading journalists who cover United has, as a whole, been one unsympathetic to Ronaldo’s complaints and in most cases, cynical about his motivations.
The consensus seems to be very much that when it comes to accusations of being betrayed, when you point the finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.