Cristiano Ronaldo was absent when the majority of Manchester United players returned for pre-season training with new boss Erik ten Hag on Monday morning.
The Portuguese forward has informed the club he wants to leave this summer in order to play Champions League football.
It’s understood that his absence from training on Monday was due to family reasons, with United accepting this explanation.
United’s position on Ronaldo remains that he has a year remaining on his contract and is not for sale, despite his desire to quit Old Trafford.
Some United players – namely those not involved in international football last month – began their pre-season schedule under Ten Hag last week, but Monday morning saw the rest of the squad, bar Ronaldo, arrive.
“Manchester United wanted this week to mark major recruitment and squad shape progress ahead of tour, yet it’ll now be shadowed by the Cristiano show,” said Sky Sports News’ Melissa Reddy. “A distraction Erik ten Hag and the club don’t need and can’t let spiral. Decisiveness required.”
Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane were two of the players who arrived at Carrington for 9am on Monday, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka starting training last week.
Another player also seen on Monday morning was imminent signing Tyrell Malacia, who is set to complete the second part of his medical ahead of his £13m move from Feyenoord. Left-back Malacia will represent the first signing of the Erik Ten Hag era.
Ronaldo wants to leave United this summer amid concerns he will be unable to compete for the biggest trophies at the club.
The 37-year-old feels the urge to win even more in the twilight of his career, but is understood to feel that may not be possible at Old Trafford next season. The 2021/22 campaign was the fifth in succession in which United failed to win a trophy.
Ronaldo is also understood to be concerned that United are yet to make any improvements to the squad in the current transfer window. Thirteen players have left the club this summer but none have yet arrived.
Ronaldo respects United a lot – especially the fans – and is said to be “in love” with the club, but this coming season will be the first in his career in which he will not play Champions League football if he stays at Old Trafford.
The Portugal international has never played in the Europa League – which United will be in next season – and last played in its predecessor, the UEFA Cup when he was at Sporting Lisbon in the 2002/03 season.
But while Ronaldo is keen to leave, United have taken the stance that he is not for sale and expect him to see out the remainder of his contract, which expires in the summer of 2023.
Speaking at the beginning of June, Ronaldo said he was “very happy” to remain at United and predicted they would rebound from a dreadful 2021/22 season.
But just one month later, the Portugal captain has had a change of heart. Sky Sports looks at the reasons for and against his potential departure.
Analysis: Who is new signing Malacia?
Sky Sports football journalist Sam Blitz:
“Erik Ten Hag was known for his attacking philosophy at Ajax with some slick passing – Malacia fits the bill in these two areas of the pitch.
“Going forwards, the 22-year-old completed more shots and take-ons than any other defender in the Eredivisie last season. To put it more simply, Malacia can beat his opposite man and has experience of producing the end product required.
“The Dutch international is comfortable on the ball too. Only Ajax’s Daley Blind touched the ball more times and completed more final third passes than Malacia out of all the Eredivisie defenders. Malacia’s six completed through balls is also a divisional high for defenders in the Dutch top-flight.
“And all this attacking play is backed up by some solidity at the back. No Eredivisie-based left-back completed more tackles than the 22-year-old last season, while only title-winning Blind managed to take the ball off opponents more times in the middle and attacking third than Malacia – which hints at a pressing mentality from the Dutchman.”