France defender Raphael Varane said his Manchester United team-mates were obviously affected by Cristiano Ronaldo’s comments in a television interview that he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag and felt betrayed by the Premier League side.
In an explosive interview with TalkTV that has cast doubts about his future at the club, Ronaldo said he was being forced out of the side he joined in August 2021 for his second spell after winning eight major trophies with them from 2003-2009.
United said they would address the Portuguese forward’s comments only after establishing the full facts but Varane said the situation had impacted players.
“Obviously it affects us,” Varane, who has been selected in France’s squad for World Cup in Qatar, told French radio station Europe1. “We follow what is happening and what is being said.
“We try to calm the situation in our own way, we try not to get too involved in it. What is happening in the media in the big clubs is gaining momentum.
“When it’s a star like Ronaldo, even more, so we try to take it with distance, that is to say that we do not try to change the situation alone, we are part of a collective.”
Last month, Ten Hag said Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute against Tottenham when the forward walked down the tunnel with a few minutes of the game remaining after being left on the bench.
The 37-year-old was then not part of the squad that faced Chelsea the following Saturday.
Varane, who has also played alongside Ronaldo at Spanish side Real Madrid, said the team was ready to accept whatever United decides.
“What I want is the best for my team, so whatever the decision, as players, we’ll accept it and give the best of ourselves,” Varane added.
On Tuesday, Portugal midfielder Joao Mario said an awkward handshake between Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes was the result of a joke between team-mates for club and country.
While Cristiano Ronaldo has slim pickings over his next move Manchester United are already targeting a new elite forward, says Melissa Reddy.
Speaking on a special edition of the Essential Football podcast, Sky Sports News senior reporter Reddy said a lack of interest from Napoli, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, who had all courted Ronaldo in the summer, meant the vilified striker’s options of his next move were limited.
“Chelsea wanted him, Thomas Tuchel pushed against it, and Graham Potter doesn’t want to be dealing with the Ronaldo sideshow like United are,” she said.
“Then there’s Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, all these clubs who have ruled themselves out of the running. Napoli have categorically stated they won’t be making a move in January for Ronaldo or any other big player.
“They are happy with their form and how they see their future progressing. They’re one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Europe at the moment. It’s a no-go for them. It seems like he’s got a fairly limited pool of options.
“Perhaps he feels that will change if he’s a free agent, but I can’t see how much the very top clubs, who believe they can win the Champions League, can see him making a pivotal difference in a positive way to achieve that.
“Sporting are the ones who have romanticised about the idea of Ronaldo’s return. They’ve spoken about how it would be a dream for him to come back, and the only barrier is the financial implications of his return.
“Even taking a huge pay cut would be difficult to make the numbers work. However, they know he would give them a commercial boost like no other player could – and that could help to generate the funds to afford his move. That seems like the only realistic option for him.”
United will take legal advice before deciding how to respond to Ronaldo, but will await the release of the full interview later this week before taking any decision.
Sky Sports News understands Ten Hag and the United players are extremely disappointed with the manner and timing of Ronaldo’s interview.
The club only found out about the interview as they were preparing to fly back from London on Sunday evening following their 2-1 win over Fulham and they do not understand why he has said what he has said.
They are hugely disappointed that he would disrespect the club, his manager and team-mates in this way and United are likely to consider all their options now regarding the player.
Ronaldo was told on Thursday that he would not be in the starting XI against Fulham but he would have been in the squad. He told the club he was ill.
Ronaldo: Absolute focus on Portugal
Ronaldo has joined up with the Portugal squad for the World Cup and insisted his “absolute focus” is on the national team amid the furore over his interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored.
Ronaldo said on Twitter: “Total and absolute focus on the work of the National Team.
“A united group, towards a single objective: to fulfil the dream of all Portuguese people!”
Jamie Carragher speaking to Sky Sports News:
“I just thought the comments were bizarre. They were bang out of order considering the timing of it: On the back of Manchester United fans being delighted after getting a winning goal at Fulham with the last kick of the game.
“It should give them excitement over the next month for when the league starts again. They should be enjoying themselves and then the Ronaldo interview comes out and boom – it’s about negativity. Not the team, not the manager – it’s about Cristiano Ronaldo. And it’s been like that since he’s come back. It’s basically been the Cristiano Ronaldo show.
“At times that’s been good on the pitch, last season he got a lot of goals. But this season he’s not involved and he’s craving the attention that he can’t get because he’s not on the pitch. The only way he’s going to do that is by causing trouble and that was exactly his intention with the interview.
“He wants to be sacked, that’s obvious. He told the club in the summer that he wanted to leave, which is football – these things happen. There were no takers, maybe because of his wages or the price Manchester United wanted. I think he knows that’s going to be the same in this next transfer window and maybe the following summer and he is now trying to be sacked or wants to leave on a free. That’s the only way he’s going to get out.
“And I think United should sack him or move him on by giving him a free transfer. At the moment, they’re trying to build something that is not trying to win the Premier League or the Champions League right now. The manager will want to push for those honours in the next two or three years and Ronaldo is not going to be around.
“He is going to be a distraction, this will not go away. As soon as a player comes out and says he doesn’t respect the manager, how is that going to work when he walks into the first day of the post-World Cup season? It can’t work that going forward – there will be people taking pictures, we will be asking about Ronaldo to the manager in interviews for Sky. United don’t need the hassle.”