Cristiano Ronaldo has accused Manchester United of ‘stopping the clock’ and making ‘zero’ progress since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Ronaldo departed for Real Madrid a world record fee of £80million in 2009 before returning in 2021 to find United ‘behind Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea’.
It was one of a number of damning assessments from Ronaldo in the first part of his 90-minute sit-down with Piers Morgan in which he criticised Wayne Rooney for his criticism, gave his support to former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, opened up on the heartache of losing his newborn son earlier this year and also called out the mentality of United’s young players, accusing them of ‘not caring’.
‘Piers to be honest, when I signed for Manchester United I thought everything would have changed because it’s 13 years since I changed,’ he said.
‘I was in Real Madrid nine years and three in Juventus, and when I arrived I thought it would be different; the technology and infrastructures and everything.
‘I was a surprised in a bad way, because everything was the same, and you mention that Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] was sacked, Michael Carrick assumed the job for two games, and everything was so fast.
‘The progress was zero. Since Sir Alex left, I saw no evolution in the club. Nothing had changed.’
Cristiano Ronaldo pulled no punches when it came to Manchester United’s lack of progress
Ronaldo (right) has claimed the club has made ‘zero’ progress since Sir Alex Ferguson retired
Ronaldo, sat comfortably in a plain white t-shirt and dark brown blazer, barely furrowed his brow as he continued to lament the lack of progress at United in recent years.
‘It surprised me a lot, the instability at the club, and they had stopped the clock in my opinion,’ he continued.
‘When I signed and they signed [Jadon] Sancho and [Raphael] Varane plus me, I thought that things would be in the way that Manchester [United] should be.
‘As you mentioned, Sir Alex Ferguson left a big gap in the club, but not only Sir Alex, one man that I thought made a difference was David Gill. He was a very, very good man.
‘The structure around Sir Alex was very important too, and I knew that Manchester United wasn’t the same. But I didn’t see that it was such a big gap over the last 10 years.’
Ferguson (left, pictured with Ronaldo, right, in 2008) retired from the United job back in 2013
Ronaldo (left) was left stunned at how nothing had changed since Ferguson’s (right) days when he returned to join Manchester United in 2021 after three years playing for Juventus in Italy
Asked what in particular had sounded the alarm for him upon his return, he said: ‘Nothing changed. The pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym. Even some parts of the technology, the kitchen, the chefs – who I appreciate are lovely persons – they stopped in time, which surprised me a lot as I thought I would see different things.’
Manchester United confirmed earlier this week that they are waiting until the second part of his interview with Morgan, which airs on Thursday, before deciding their next steps, as they explore a potential termination of contract.
Things could have turned out so different last year had he ended up at nearby rivals Manchester City, something he claims was ‘very close’ before Ferguson stepped in.
‘Well honestly, it was close,’ he said.
‘It was something that they spoke about a lot and [Pep] Guardiola said two weeks ago that they tried hard to have me.
United’s lawyers are assessing his comments and trying to find grounds for a contract breach
‘But as you know, [because of] my history with Manchester United, your heart, your feeling, what you did before, made the difference of course – and as well, Sir Alex Ferguson.
‘So I was surprised in some way, but it was a conscience decision because the heart was speaking loud in that moment.’
More indignation is expected to follow in part two – particularly against current manager Erik ten Hag – but he did reserve plenty of scathing remarks for former manager Ralf Rangnick, who he claims ‘nobody’ at United had ever heard of.
Rangnick assumed the job on an interim basis after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked, but Ronaldo was deeply bemused working under the now-Austria manager.
‘After Ole, they bring a sporting director Ralf Rangnick, which is something nobody understands,’ he fumed.
‘This guy is not even a coach. A big club like Manchester United bringing a sport directive surprised not only me but all the world.
‘Of course [it was a ridiculous decision]. If you’re not even a coach, how are you going to be the boss of Manchester United?
The forward criticised the club’s decision to bring Ralf Rangnick to the club last season
Rangnick took over as interim boss of United when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked last year
‘It’s something that I should say that Manchester [United] has followed not the right way to reach the success of other teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea… they are one step behind or two because of these kind of mistakes.
Asked if Rangnick, who had previously coached against United years prior for Schalke in the Champions League, was someone he had been aware of, Ronaldo was totally dismissive.
‘No [I’d never heard of him]. Of course not,’ he said.
‘Nobody, the people who I spoke to, knew. I respect [him], all the coaches in my career I had to call them the boss, but deep inside me I never saw him as the boss because I saw some points that I never agreed.
‘He stopped in time as well because if you’re not being a coach for the last five years, you’re going to lose your identity as a coach.’
As revealed by Sportsmail this week, United are exploring ways of sacking Ronaldo over his bombshell interview.
It is understood that lawyers for United are studying Ronaldo’s claims that he feels betrayed by the club and has no respect for manager Ten Hag, to see if this constitutes a breach of his contract.
Ronaldo was unimpressed by United’s decision to hire the former sporting director as manager
Ronaldo’s United team-mates reportedly feel ‘disrespected’ by the interview with Morgan
In a statement issued on Monday, United said that the club ‘will consider its response after the full facts have been established’.
Ronaldo pulled no punches when it came to the mentality of young players at United, and the game in a more wider context.
Morgan gushed that it is a dream for young players to learn every day from someone as accomplished as Ronaldo – but the Portuguese has now claimed they ‘don’t care’.
‘Their hunger [is different],’ he added. ‘I think they have things more easily, everything’s easy, they don’t suffer – and they don’t care.
‘I don’t mean only a few in Manchester United, but all the teams in all leagues in the world, the youngsters are not the same of my generation. But you cannot blame them, because it’s part of the life and the new generation, the new technologies that distract them. They don’t care’
Of those who do impress him, Ronaldo name-checked fellow Portugal international Diogo Dalot as a model pro, before also hailing the mentality of summer signings Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro.
Casemiro (left), Lisandro Martinez (middle) and Diogo Dalot (right) were praised by Ronaldo
On Wednesday afternoon construction workers outside Old Trafford were seen tearing down a mural that include the rebel Portuguese star.
Ronaldo was pictured alongside Bryan Robson, David Beckham and other iconic No 7s in United’s past as part of the ‘More than a shirt’ campaign.
But in light of his damning remarks to Morgan the mural was ripped down on Wednesday.
Ronaldo, who is on a £500,000-a-week contract until it expires in June, will, along with United, be looking to go separate ways at the earliest opportunity after the World Cup and Sportsmail revealed this week that he has held talks with Bayern Munich.
Sportsmail understands that Ronaldo and his agent, Jorge Mendes, met with Bayern last week after officials from the Bundesliga giants flew to England for talks.
A mural outside Old Trafford that featured Ronaldo was seen being torn down on Wednesday
Bayern sent officials to England to meet Ronaldo and agent Jorge Mendes (right) last week
Bayern chief executive Oliver Khan confirmed in July that they had considered a move for Ronaldo, but said that he did not fit into the club’s ‘philosophy’.
Beckham’s Inter Miami in Major League Soccer have also been touted with making a move for him.
More to follow.