Ronaldo has officially left Manchester United for the second time in his career. After his interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, his contract was terminated by "mutual agreement" just days later. His time with Manchester United can be broken down into two distinct periods. The first spans 2003–2009, and the second, 2021–2022.
The first is irreplaceable because he catapulted United to a golden era unlike any in their history by becoming one of the greatest players of all time. He set the bar extremely high, and he left an indelible mark on the record books.
The second was a bittersweet reunion that fell short of expectations. It shouldn't linger in the memory too long, but it also shouldn't take anything away from the first.
Ronaldo's desire to depart was evident for a long period of time. This summer, he requested a transfer, but the club had no takers on a 37-year-old player who was still earning around £12 million annually in salary.
The tension in his relationship with Erik ten Hag was obvious. Ronaldo and some players left Old Trafford during a preseason game against Rayo Vallecano, earning the wrath of the manager.
Worse, in an October Premier League match against Tottenham, he refused to come on as a substitute and instead left the field before the game was over. Ten Hag decided to impose a "consequence" on Ronaldo by benching him for the upcoming game against Chelsea.
As everyone knows by now, Ronaldo was extremely critical of the club in his now-famous interview. His comments, which highlighted United's apparent lack of investment in infrastructure and contributed to the team's falling behind its biggest rivals, were met with some support from listeners. Hopefully, it will compel a positive outcome.
His comments about Ten Hag's lack of respect were damning and would have severely weakened the boss' authority had Ronaldo stayed any longer.
Even though Ronaldo largely carried United last season, especially in the Champions League group stage, this tactic may have been the right one at the wrong time. It would have been ideal if he'd come back in 2013 when it was first speculated that he might do so, but that ended up not happening because of the power shift from Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill to David Moyes and Ed Woodward. United needed a talisman and Ronaldo was still only 28.
Despite Ronaldo's claims that he was "close" to joining Manchester City last year, the club has denied those rumours. Fans in the red half of Manchester might consider his decision to join United as a blessing in disguise, considering how terrible it would have been to see one of the club's modern legends winning trophies with a fierce rival.
Both parties made the decision to play at Old Trafford based on their emotions rather than their rationale.
In recent years, United have tried a few different veteran strikers as a stopgap, but this has always proven to be a short-term solution with no long-term benefits. Ronaldo, at age 36 or 37, was never going to buck that trend, as obvious as that may seem now.
Ten Hag, the club's manager, is attempting to implement a new project and establish an identity that has been lacking for the past decade, and he didn't mesh well with the current state of affairs. Even with Ronaldo's stature, trying to fit a club legend past his prime into the new chapter was incompatible.
Despite having had a successful 20-year career, someone as ambitious as Ronaldo will never be content with playing second fiddle. The inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour that got him kicked out of the club worked to his advantage.
He can take this time to weigh his options and sign with the club that best suits him moving forward in his career. Meanwhile, United can keep moving in the same direction despite his absence.