Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed that he believes Manchester United and manager Erik ten Hag have tried to force him out of the club.

The 37-year-old, who missed Sunday’s 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage through illness, made the admission during an interview with Piers Morgan. Snippets of Morgan’s world exclusive with the United ace was released on Sunday evening, just an hour after details of the interview were revealed.

Ronaldo wanted to leave United during the summer transfer window in pursuit of Champions League football but was blocked from leaving by the club, who regularly reiterated that he had a big part to play in new manager Ten Hag’s plans. He missed the club’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia due to ‘personal reasons’ and has struggled to nail down a place in the team this season.

Now, following a statement he released back in August, confirming that he would reveal the ‘truth’ in an interview, Ronaldo has confirmed that he feels “betrayed” by United, insisting that both Ten Hag and senior members of staff at Old Trafford have tried to force him out.

Asked if United were trying to force him out, Ronaldo told Piers Morgan Uncensored: “Yes. Not only the coach, but two or three other guys around the club.”

Asked if they were at senior executive level, Ronaldo continued: “Yes. I felt betrayed. Honestly, I shouldn’t’ say that, I don’t know. But I don’t care, people should listen.

“I feel betrayed and I felt that some people didn’t want me here, not only this year but last year too.”

Ronaldo continued to criticize Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, saying, “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me,” per the Sun. “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.”

Former manager Ralf Rangnick was also the target of Ronaldo’s ire. “If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United,” Ronaldo told the Sun. “I’d never even heard of him.”

Ronaldo also ripped Manchester United’s training facilities, saying the team did not make improvements under Rangnick. Former teammate Wayne Rooney also found himself in the crosshairs, with Ronaldo saying, “I don’t know why he criticizes me so badly … probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at high level.”

Then he chuckles and adds: “I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true . . . ”

At home, back in April, he and his partner Georgina suffered the unbearable loss of their baby son during childbirth, a heart-breaking tragedy in which the boy’s twin sister survived.

Somehow, he found the strength to continue playing, fuelled in part by the astonishing support he received from fans of rival clubs such as Liverpool, where the crowd sang You’ll Never Walk Alone on the seventh minute (Ronaldo wears No 7 on his shirt) of their next home game.

He admits: “I never expected to see that.”

He and Georgina also received a personal note of condolence from the Royal Family, which amazed and touched him in equal measure.

Shockingly, he was less well supported by his club who he accuses of a lack of “empathy”, especially 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 says senior executives at Old Trafford even doubted him when he explained why he couldn’t return, which made him feel “hurt” and “bad”.

This wasn’t how the fairy tale was supposed to end.

It was just over 14 months ago that Ronaldo sensationally re-signed for Manchester United in a comeback story that stunned and enthralled the world of football.

He was heading to United’s great rivals Manchester City when a personal appeal from his great mentor and father figure, Sir Alex Ferguson, drove him back to where he started.

This wasn’t how the fairy tale was supposed to end. – Piers Morgan

“I followed my heart,” he says simply, tapping his chest. “He (Sir Alex) said to me, ‘It’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City’, and I said, ‘OK, Boss’.”

In his first game back at Old Trafford, the self-styled “Theatre of Dreams”, he scored twice in a thumping 4-1 victory over Newcastle, cheered on in the stands by Sir Alex and Ronaldo’s ecstatic weeping mother.

The delirious United fans chanted “Viva Ronaldo” for hours after the game.

As his team-mate Marcus Rashford tweeted that night: “Like he never left.”

But very soon, cold, hard reality hit. 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.”

And he was dismayed by the dismissive attitude of many of the younger players, who seemed to have no interest in learning the lessons he had gleaned in his magnificent career.

Since Sir Alex left, I saw no evolution in the club.

Ronaldo On Man Utd

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 says. “I want the best for the club. This is why I come to Manchester United.

“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.”

At the centre of his discontent is that Ronaldo hates losing and wants to operate in a winning environment — of the kind he doesn’t believe exists at United now and may need drastic steps to fix, including him leaving.

He says: “As Picasso said, you have to destroy it to rebuild it (the artist’s exact quote was: ‘Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.’) and if they start with me, for me, it’s not a problem.

“I love Manchester United, I love the fans, they’re always on my side. But if they want to do it different… they have to change many, many things.”

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.”

I first interviewed Cristiano three years ago in Turin, Italy, when he was still playing for Juventus, and we ended up having a four-hour dinner together.

Since then, we’ve become very unlikely but very good friends. We text and speak a lot, and he has always been incredibly honest with me.

He’s a very smart, likeable guy who has given a lot of careful thought to doing this interview.

I’ve felt the frustration and anger building inside him for many months.

Ronaldo takes his football very seriously — and winning even more seriously.
You don’t get to have all the trophies and records he has without possessing a ferociously strong and resilient mentality, a relentless work ethic, a stupefyingly intense competitive spirit, and an unshakeable self-confidence that you’re No 1.

For someone like Ronaldo to suddenly find himself at a club that isn’t competing for top silverware, and where he has been dropped, benched, snubbed, scolded and even last month, for the first time in his career, suspended, has hit him hard.

Not least because last season he was the club’s leading scorer with 24 goals.

He doesn’t expect any special treatment, but he does expect to be treated with the respect he feels he has earned.

Ronaldo takes his football very seriously — and winning even more seriously.

When our interview finished, Georgina arrived with an excited gaggle of their young children, who instantly all ran to their father and clung on to his legs.

To see Ronaldo with his kids is a joy; he showers them with the same love and affection that his mother has always showered on him.

He said: “My family is everything to me. Even more so after what we have been through this year.”

Earlier, on camera, he made a breathtakingly poignant revelation about his dead son that had me choking up.

I can’t imagine living my life in the constant frenzied goldfish bowl with which Ronaldo has to lead his, where everything he does or says is so intensely scrutinised, often harshly, around the planet.

To have to do it after suffering the shocking tragedy of losing a child must be astoundingly hard.

But he doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him.

He knows that he is a very lucky man with a beautiful family, vast wealth, and a God-given talent that’s made him one of the most celebrated and famous sports stars in history.

Jaw-dropping

Instead, he wants people to understand what he has experienced this year, and to hear it directly from him, not through ill-informed rumours.

The interview, as viewers will see, is jaw-dropping because we so rarely see or hear him like this.

I’m not sure how this saga ends, other than it’s hard to see how Cristiano Ronaldo can return to Manchester United after this.

But 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.

Whatever happens, he made it clear to me that his heart will always be with the club and especially its fans.

He says: “They are the most important things in football. You play for them.

“They are always on my side. I feel that every time when I go out, when I walk in the streets, the fans come up to me and they appreciate what I do for football.

“The fans for me are everything. This is why I give this interview, because I think it’s the right time to speak my mind.”

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