WHEN Cristiano Ronaldo rattled in back-to-back home hat-tricks to beat both Tottenham then Norwich 3-2, everything looked perfect for the Portuguese superstar.
Fast forward six months to Spurs’ next visit to Old Trafford and he has failed to force a transfer exit, is barely playing and has infuriated the board, fans, team-mates and the new manager.
So much so, it looks as though his latest tantrum – refusing to come on against Tottenham before storming off and out of Old Trafford before full-time – could prove the fatal blow of this rollercoaster 14 months.
United fans were understandably jubilant when Ronaldo made his dramatic return to Old Trafford on deadline day of August 2021.
Not only had the five-time Ballon d’Or decided to come back after 12 years at Real Madrid and Juventus.
But he had done so after snubbing rivals Manchester City, who were confident in landing Ronaldo before Sir Alex Ferguson stepped in with a pivotal phone call.
A £480,000-a-week, two-year contract was signed and Ronaldo was a Manchester United player again – and the Premier League even ripped up their own rulebook to allow him his iconic No7 shirt.
He said after completing the £19.7million transfer: “Manchester United is a club that has always had a special place in my heart, and I have been overwhelmed by all the messages I have received since the announcement.
“I cannot wait to play at Old Trafford in front of a full stadium and see all the fans again.
“I’m looking forward to joining up with the team after the international games, and I hope we have a very successful season ahead.”
There were, understandably, question marks over his age but he quickly put plenty of doubts to bed with his electric double against Newcastle on his debut.
Ronaldomania had truly hit the red half of Manchester.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted to have him, too, as it was Ronaldo’s six crucial Champions League group-stage goals – including late winners against Villarreal and Atalanta – that fired United into the knockout stages almost singlehandedly and delayed his inevitable sacking.
Solskjaer was axed last November and in came interim Ralf Rangnick to try and steady the rocking ship full of underperforming players.
But despite his lack of pressing and the distinct lack of quality around him, Ronaldo ended the season with 18 Premier League goals and 18 Siuuu celebrations.
Only golden boot winners Son Heung-min and Mo Salah managed more as Ronaldo was named United’s Player of the Season.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
The forward – who suffered the devastating and tragic loss of his newborn son in April – ended the season with three goals in his last four games.
But out went Rangnick and in came Erik ten Hag, a hard disciplinarian who would also demand serious pressing from his striker.
Ronaldo is a five-time Champions League winner and United’s sixth-place finish was only good enough to qualify for the Europa League.
He was expected to leave, he wanted to leave, he tried to leave, he brought in his agent Jorge Mendes for a showdown meeting to make sure he would leave.
But no one wanted Ronaldo this summer, no club was prepared to sign him.
So he was forced to stay put and, after eventually turning up for pre-season, was not ready to start the opening game against Brighton.
Then came the debacle at Brentford, his only full 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.
United imploded to lose 4-0 and Ronaldo was visibly fuming – just as he was after being subbed off at Brentford the previous season and again against Newcastle last weekend.
Then came the accusations he had called for club captain Harry Maguire to be “demoted” to the bench, describing the centre-back as “part of the problem” in the team.
In the end, both men were pushed aside as Ten Hag felt his team were better off without them – reducing one of the footballing greats to a bit-part role as an impact sub, or not even that at times, and a Europa League starter.
But by the time of Wednesday’s win over Spurs – which saw United move within a point of the top four and four off City – Ronaldo had seemingly had enough.
After watching Fred and Bruno Fernandes score at Old Trafford, Ronaldo was called upon by Ten Hag to see out the final few minutes.
But instead of lacing his boots to come on, the egotistical frontman trudged down the side of the pitch and headed down the tunnel, collected his stuff and walked out of the stadium – just as he did against Rayo Vallecano in pre-season.
Ten Hag was having none of it this time around and came down hard on Ronaldo, who he recently had to defend after an FA charge for slapping a phone out of a 14-year-old boy’s hand after losing his temper at Everton last season.
The unrepentant and petulant child was forced to train alone, axed from the squad to face Chelsea, fined £720,000 and now has NO allies at the club with many wanting him gone – either sold in January or having his contract ripped up early.
Of course, Ronaldo’s family jumped to his defence – just as they did after his rape allegations and the Goodison Park incident – with chief cheerleader and sister Elma Aveiro’s pathetic spouting on social media only worsening the situation.
It appears this latest tantrum really is the final straw for Ronaldo and he may well have played his final game for this historic football club, the one he claimed to love so much and yet has repeatedly been more than happy to put his own reputation ahead of for the last year.
Now, surely, time is up and the quicker this horror story is over, the better for all involved.
It was a nostalgic transfer. It got one over City. It was a superb PR move at the time.
But let’s not pretend Ronaldo – who turns 38 in February – wants to be at Old Trafford and Ten Hag will be glad to see the back of him so he can get on with coaching a team of young, hungry, motivated players instead of Mr It’s All About Me who thinks he can pick and choose when he plays.
News/ 10 hours ago
EU imposes sanctions for sexual violence
On International Women’s Day, the EU is taking a stand against sexual violence: it...
News/ 10 hours ago
Women’s Day in Iran: No day and every day
The official women’s day has no fixed place in the calendar in Iran. One thing...
News/ 2 weeks ago
Biden versus Putin: two speeches, two worlds
In Warsaw, the US President responded indirectly to the speech by the Russian ruler...