Cristiano Ronaldo is set for crunch talks with Manchester United and new manager Erik ten Hag over his future.
Ronaldo was expected back in Manchester on Monday night and could meet Ten Hag as early as Tuesday when the rest of the squad return to training following the club’s tour of Thailand and Australia.
The 37-year-old Portugal star has missed the first three weeks of pre-season after being given compassionate leave for a family issue, having told United he wants to leave Old Trafford this summer.
Cristiano Ronaldo is on his way back to Manchester today for talks with Manchester United
Ten Hag talked to Ronaldo when he took over at the end of last season, but it will be the first time the two men have spoken since the player asked to go.
Contact between the two camps has been maintained by United chief executive Richard Arnold and Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes who has been hawking his client around Europe’s top clubs.
Ronaldo’s return is being seen as a positive sign, although it’s still unclear whether he is ready to commit to United for another season or re-iterate his desire to be sold.
United were still adamant on Monday night that Ronaldo is not for sale and remains part of Ten Hag’s plans for the new season.
The five-time Balon d’Or winner has been keeping himself fit in Lisbon, but he may not be ready to go straight back into full training with the rest of the squad who had Monday off after flying back from Perth on Sunday.
Ronaldo was granted time off this summer to spend time with his family and missed the club’s 17-day pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia
As a manager who famously likes to spend as much time preparing his squad’s tactical approach as much as possible, Ronaldo’s pre-season absence will have proven a concern
Dutch manager Erik ten Hag has remained consistently tight-lipped when facing questions on the club legend’s future, and has suggested Ronaldo will remain a United player at least another season.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has 12 months remaining on the deal he signed last season after his arrival from Juventus, but there is an option for a further year.
Ten Hag said, when questioned in Australia: ‘I am well informed, he also has also an option [of another year].
‘Yes [he could stay beyond this season], but to be honest, of course, I have signed here for three years, but in football it’s short-term as well. We have to win from the start. So I don’t look that far ahead.
‘I have a strategy, it’s a process, it takes time but in the end, we have to make sure from the outset there is a winning team.’
The club initially accepted Ronaldo’s stance, although ten Hag has frequently reiterated this summer that the player is not for sale and he would like him to remain a part of the side in the new season.
Ronaldo regularly haunted Atletico Madrid during his time with city rivals Real Madrid
Despite his status in the game, there were very few interested parties when the Portuguese forward announced his intentions to leave United this summer, with only one concrete bid from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club.
Chelsea, Bayern Munich and even former club Real Madrid all turned down the opportunity to move for one the game’s greatest ever players, and surprisingly the strongest rumours were with former nemeses Atletico Madrid.
Although it is understood that Ronaldo would take a cut on his £500,000-a-week wages, Atletico would need to sell players to fund the move.
He put in several high profile performances against the club, notably in the Champions League
However Atleti have distanced themselves from a potential move, and the rumours sparked outrage amongst the club’s fanbase, as they made it very clear they did not want to sign a player who spent nine years at their city rivals, during which time he twice denied them a Champions League trophy in the 2014 and 2016 finals.
Ronaldo hinted he could be staying after training at the gym in club shorts
The forward has not been shy about sharing his own pre-season training regime with his followers, and has clearly sustained his well-documented devotion to his own physical fitness.
He initially hinted that he might be staying at the Red Devils after tweeting a photo of himself in the gym in club shorts, although he has kept his silence since on that front, and no further insinuation has been forthcoming as yet.
The Red Devils have signed three players so far this summer, despite a delayed start to their business in the market.
They have completed deals for Christian Eriksen, who joined for free after his short-term contract expired at Brentford, after luring Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord and signed versatile centre-back Lisandro Martinez for £55million from Ajax.