Gary Neville has offered Manchester United some advice regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s future, and it’s difficult to see many supporters disagreeing. Ronaldo wants to leave United for a Champions League club this summer – a potential saga threatening to distract a crucial period in Erik ten Hag’s rebuild.
It would be blind not to acknowledge that the uncertain future of such an impactful name as Ronaldo comes at an ill time. On Monday, Ten Hag welcomed the remainder of his newly-inherited squad back to Carrington as week two of pre-season commenced, but the 37-year-old striker was nowhere to be seen.
His absence, due to ‘family reasons’, could become permanent if Jorge Mendes successfully finds a suitor willing to approach United with a suitable offer during his tour of Europe. Mendes has met with Chelsea and Bayern Munich already, with Napoli also credited with an interest in bringing him back to Serie A.
But with Ten Hag focusing on preparing an underperforming group of players for his first season in charge, the last thing he needs is to be at the centre of a media whirlwind surrounding a player he will have hoped to build around throughout 2022/23. And Neville believes United must waste no time settling the matter to prevent making an already-mammoth task even more challenging.
Reacting to the intensifying talk of Ronaldo’s potential exit on Monday, he tweeted: “The only important factor with the Ronaldo situation is that it’s dealt with decisively and quickly. This can’t be a saga that takes the focus away from ETH bedding in period for the next two months.”
Not only will Ten Hag require the full attention of his squad throughout pre-season. But he will be eager to have Ronaldo’s future clarified so he can plan accordingly and push United to recruit a worthy replacement after Edinson Cavani also left the club on a free transfer this summer.
The Red Devils entering the new season next month with Ronaldo as the only natural striker in Ten Hag’s ranks would be an unnecessary risk in itself. But if he’s still wanting to leave, the club would be guilty of somewhat throwing the Dutchman under the bus if they fail to replace him.
United already need a new striker, but it has slipped down their list of priorities after Liverpool hijacked their interest in Benfica’s Darwin Nunez. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford can play down the middle but are much more suited on the left. Ronaldo would need an external successor, and dealing with his future as quickly as possible gives United the best chance of finding one.