Manchester United will consider tearing up Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract in the January transfer window – as long as he does not demand a pay-off for the remainder of his deal.
The club are considering their options, including whether to fine Ronaldo and whether they can take further disciplinary action, after his explosive, unauthorised interview in which he claims he has “no respect” for Erik ten Hag and accused United of betraying him.
Those options also include striking an agreement with Ronaldo to let him leave for free by terminating his contract which runs until June next year. But sources are adamant this will not involve paying the final six months of his highly lucrative deal understood to be worth around £560,000 (700,000)-a-week, which makes him the highest-paid player in United’s history.
The suspicion is that this is what Ronaldo will demand, however. United are desperate not to involve themselves in mud-slinging with one of their greatest ever players although there is clearly a general acceptance that he should never represent them again after his interview with Piers Morgan for Talk TV.
There is relief that United do not play again until the middle of December which gives them time to decide their best option.
United, who were celebrating their 2-1 win in the final Premier League game before the World Cup break, only found out about the interview just before news broke that it had taken place.
On Monday the club released a statement that read, “Manchester United notes the media coverage regarding an interview by Cristiano Ronaldo. The club will consider its response after the full facts have been established. Our focus remains on preparing for the second half of the season and continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built among the players, manager, staff, and fans.”
United will therefore await the full details of the interview, to be broadcast on Wednesday and Thursday night, before deciding what formal action to take over the 37-year-old’s behaviour.
It may well be they even have grounds to terminate his contract due to what employment lawyers term “a potential breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence”.
As revealed by Telegraph, United were prepared to let Ronaldo leave in the summer after he asked his agent Jorge Mendes to find him a Champions League club.
Mendes spoke to several clubs, including Bayern Munich and Chelsea, where he met with new owner Todd Boehly. Chelsea’s then coach Thomas Tuchel was against the move and now he has gone it remains to be seen whether they revive their interest although it is thought unlikely.
There is a growing sense that Ronaldo will not be able to secure a leading European club. He may have to hugely reduce his demands and make a homecoming to Sporting in Portugal or revise his plans and look at the MLS.
Ten Hag would not have stood in Ronaldo’s way then and would not have done so in January, even before the interview, if a suitable offer arrived. His only issue was asking to be given enough time to sign a replacement striker.
However, United have hardened that stance and are actively seeking to move Ronaldo on in the next window and will not demand a fee despite paying close to £20 million for him when he signed from Juventus last year.
United fear his continued presence at the club would not just be unhelpful for him and them but would hold back what is shaping up to be an exciting second-half of the season with an emerging young forward line.
Indeed, several senior United players have already expressed their annoyance with Ronaldo’s behaviour in recent months when he has appeared more concerned about himself than the good of the team. It has led to tension with the dressing room.
Sources are also annoyed at the criticism of Ten Hag who has been consistent in his support for Ronaldo and has only rebuked him for, on two occasions, leaving games early.
Even after the first of those matches, a pre-season friendly, he said the Portuguese was not the only offender while after criticising him and dropping him following his walk-out against Tottenham Hotspur he offered the olive branch of the captaincy.
There is also frustration at Ronaldo’s behaviour given Ten Hag has always spoken to him about his role and explained he cannot expect to start every game given his age.
Ronaldo’s interview was roundly criticised with former England defender and Telegraph columnist Jamie Carragher claiming the majority of United fans would side with Ten Hag. “He wants to be sacked, I think that’s obvious,” Carragher said.
Ronaldo’s former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand, who has staunchly defended him in recent months, said on his ‘Five’ YouTube channel, “I’m quite clear with this situation for Cristiano Ronaldo: It’s over. That love affair with Man United is finished. Right now, the book’s been closed.”
“I don’t see him playing again…. I think Cristiano is well aware (that) if you undermine the manager, who is building the project, there can’t be a way back. So, he’s snookered the club and put them into a position where there’s no way back.”
- The Telegraph report