GRAEME SOUNESS: Look what Man United have reduced Cristiano Ronaldo to

GRAEME SOUNESS: Look what Manchester United have reduced Cristiano Ronaldo to – it’s so sad! This situation is entirely of the club’s making, how did Erik ten Hag think it was going to work?

  • Man United and Cristiano Ronaldo find themselves in a desperate situation
  • Ronaldo stormed down the Old Trafford tunnel early in recent win against Spurs
  • United boss Erik ten Hag revealed the superstar refused to play in 2-0 win
  • The Portguese attacker was determined to leave Man United in the summer
  • But Ten Hag and the United board insisted the 37-year-old should stay
  • Now they have a problem on their hands which is entirely their own making 

It’s a desperately sad situation that Cristiano Ronaldo finds himself in. Here is a player who has taken Manchester United to the heights and scored goals for them which will live long in the memory — yet look what that club have reduced him to.

What we saw at Old Trafford when the team played Tottenham on Wednesday night was a player plainly angry, upset and deeply frustrated — stuck on a substitutes’ bench while players he will rightly consider himself superior to were out on the field.

For a player as hugely competitive as him, that will have been agony. An experience he will never have imagined himself facing. I have to say that I can understand how he feels.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been indefinitely dropped from Manchester United’s first-team squad

Ronaldo (centre) was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s 2-0 Premier League win over Spurs

Ronaldo left the bench early and refused to come on as a substitute against Tottenham

This is a situation entirely of United’s making. A problem they just didn’t need to create. Erik ten Hag has made some bold and courageous decisions, trying to instil discipline and unity.

But how did he think this situation with Ronaldo was going to work? How did he think the player was going to respond to being asked to sit on a bench, run up the touchline doing warm-ups, only to remain redundant and unused, with the cameras trained on his every facial expression?

Ronaldo (left) has been punished by new Man United boss Erik ten Hag and won’t travel to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday

Ronaldo was pictured arriving at training on Friday where he trained with the under-23 side

People should only be talking about that performance against Tottenham but instead it is this. Ten Hag and United have shot themselves in the foot and not helped themselves one bit.

For Ronaldo to have refused to come on to the pitch when requested by Ten Hag is clearly something the manager cannot accept. Such a fundamental breach of the team ethic is the first step on a road to ruin.

But it is not hard to imagine how the conversation went between the two of them when changes were being made and he was asked to go on after 87 minutes, to run down the clock. A three-minute role at the dog-end of a 2-0 win is an indignity that this player will not have expected to be reduced to.

Ronaldo – one of the greatest ever players – breached team ethic rules against Spurs

Ronaldo shared a superb relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson (left) but has clashed with Ten Hag

Every player must be ready to play, however great or small the role, but I do think there has to be particular consideration for Ronaldo, given his position in the game and his contribution to it.

He told United before the start of the season that he wanted to go. He made no pretence about that. What has ensued is much like Jesse Lingard’s treatment by the club last season, only on a far greater scale. United could have sold Lingard to West Ham in January, chose not to and then didn’t use him. 

If I was Ten Hag, I would be concerned about having Ronaldo around the place because if you are not going to use him, you know he’s going to have a voice in the dressing room. That’s certainly not conducive to a harmonious working environment.

The communication between manager and player is clearly not what it should be and despite what happened on Wednesday, I think it is incumbent on United to do better by him. To go to whatever lengths necessary not to humiliate the man in such a way.

Ronaldo – winner of five Ballon d’Or’s – will feel he is being disrespected by Man United

He will certainly feel he is not being shown any respect, in what is without doubt the worst period of his career. He is being tested in a way he would never have expected, at the twilight of his playing days.

He seemed to reflect that in the statement he put out on Thursday night. These seemed to be the words of a man genuinely taking responsibility for his actions, rather than running from them. He was in at 8.30am to train with the Under 21s yesterday.

But if the current situation persists and he is put through more of these indignities on the substitutes’ bench, his behaviour could continue to be off.

Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford in 2021 and finished as the club’s top scorer last season

And that could lead to what I think will be the worst outcome of all this: that United’s supporters will remember him for what’s happening during the rest of this season, or at least for as long as he is kept in Manchester, rather than those golden years and brilliant goals.

If this continues, United will end up destroying Ronaldo’s legacy. The least the club owe him is not to allow that to happen. To stop putting him through this.

My Turkish delight at derby win

The attack on Manchester City’s bus as it left Anfield last weekend cannot be condoned in any way, though it did take me back to a similar episode in Istanbul in 1996, when I’d planted a flag in the centre circle of Fenerbahce’s ground after my Galatasaray team had won the Turkish Cup there. 

It was my response to one of their vice-presidents, who’d called me a cripple because I’d had heart surgery. Two of our coach windows were smashed in as we left the ground and we all dived for cover on to the floor. 

Frightening? Not really. The elation of winning the cup was the overriding emotion, even when we were lying on the floor.

Graeme Souness famously planted a Galatasaray team flag in the centre of Fenerbahce’s ground after his team had won the Turkish Super Cup there

Galatasaray supporters often honour the Liverpool legend for his courageous act

Charity event reminded me I shouldn’t rest

I’ve told a few dressing rooms in my time as a captain and a manager that ‘we mustn’t rest’, but those words have never been more important to me than when I delivered them from a stage at the Landmark London hotel, on Thursday lunchtime.

 The audience was made up of friends and supporters of my charity, DEBRA, which was taking a very big step by setting the target of raising £5million by the end of next year, to fund medical trials and support for young people with a terrible, life-threatening skin condition.

In the room was Isla, a young woman with the condition whose struggles and fortitude take me to places I have never known, emotionally. She is a daily reminder to me that I mustn’t rest, either.

Virgil Van Dijk turned up when it mattered

Virgil Van Dijk did what I asked him to on these pages last weekend. Erling Haaland could still have got two goals against Liverpool but Van Dijk (above) was on it — getting back to the player he was. 

When that challenge was put in front of him, he proved a lot of people wrong. Big players turn up in the big games. He turned up.

Virgil van Dijk silenced his critics in Liverpool’s recent win over Man City at Anfield

The Liverpool defender (left) proved a lot of people wrong up against Erling Haaland (right)

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