Manchester United are reportedly mulling over the idea of back-tracking on their original stance and allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to leave the club this summer.
The potential change of heart is thought to stem from the fact that Ronaldo is now allegedly having such a detrimental impact on team morale that Erik ten Hag feels it could be more damaging to actually keep the five-time Ballon d’Or winner around the place.
Ever since the forward made clear he desired a new challenge mid-way through the summer, United have stood firm and insisted he is not for sale. Ten Hag spoke highly of the 37-year-old and explained how excited he was to work with a “giant” of the game.
The Red Devils went on their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia without Ronaldo, who cited family reasons as the explanation behind his absence.
Spirits were high upon their return, but that soon changed once Ronaldo continued to argue against the tactics Ten Hag wants to deploy. Two games into the new Premier League season and United now sit rock-bottom of the table with two defeats against Brighton and Brentford respectively.
While there are plenty of people to blame for that miserable start, the saga surrounding Ronaldo continues to serve as a black cloud lingering over the whole of the club. A recent report from The Athletic claimed that the former Real Madrid man is now eating alone, away from the rest of his teammates at United’s Carrington training base.
He is also reportedly guilty of flapping his arms about in frustration during training sessions – something that is not exactly endearing himself to Ten Hag or his teammates. There are mounting concerns from key figures within United’s hierarchy that few things will change until Ronaldo has left the club for good.
The transfer window closes on September 1, meaning there is less time than United chief executive Richard Arnold and football director John Murtough would like to both oust Ronaldo and find his replacement.
It is becoming increasingly clear that since the 4-0 humiliation at Brentford last weekend, Ten Hag’s mood has shifted and he is now keen to move Ronaldo on if an offer is submitted from elsewhere.
Some have suggested that even if no one comes in to replace the Portugal skipper, the morale boost the rest of the squad would get from his exit would be enough to halt this rot. Ex-United defender Gary Neville does not agree.
“There is a massive decision to make on Ronaldo,” the Red Devils legend told Sky Sports on Monday Night Football.
“He is obviously not happy, the problem is if they lose him there is nothing left in the goalscoring part of the pitch. I genuinely think if he leaves and they don’t bring people in they could finish in the bottom half of the table.”