Hours before Cristiano Ronaldo's highly anticipated tell-all interview with Piers Morgan was finally broadcast, Manchester United was pulling down a giant mural outside Old Trafford containing an image of the Portugal superstar.
Surely they knew what was coming.
Few at United were spared in a scathing condemnation of the club that Ronaldo delivered in the first part of a 90-minute interview that went out on TalkTV on Wednesday.
Past and present teammates. Former managers. The people who run the club. They all got a blast from the one of the world's biggest sporting superstars, whose days at United are now surely numbered.
Excerpts from the interview had already been released on Sunday, including clips where Ronaldo said he felt “betrayed” by United and that he didn't respect manager Erik ten Hag.
Here are some of the other key parts of the incendiary interview, broadcast four days before the World Cup — likely Ronaldo's last — starts in Qatar:
‘CLOSE TO CITY’
Ronaldo said he came close to joining Manchester City before agreeing to join United for a second spell in August last year. “It was close, it was close ... they tried hard to have me,” Ronaldo said of City and its manager, Pep Guardiola. “But as you know, with my history at Manchester United, your heart, your feeling, the history that you did before, makes the difference.” Ronaldo added that a conversation with Alex Ferguson, who was United manager in his first spell at the club, was influential. “I spoke with him — he said, 'It's impossible for you to come to Manchester City,” Ronaldo said. “I said, ‘OK boss.’”
Ronaldo said he quickly realized United hadn't moved on from his first successful spell there, from 2003-09. “When I arrived, I thought everything will be different — the technology, the infrastructure, everything,” he said. “I was surprised, in a bad way, in that way. I saw everything was the same.” Ronaldo said he was also surprised that United didn't attract a better caliber of player after signing him. He said the club “stopped in time.”
“I knew Manchester United wasn't the same but I didn't see that it was such a big gap ... in the last 10 years.” He said “the progress was zero” at United compared to his two previous teams, Real Madrid and Juventus.
Ronaldo was critical of United's decision to hire Ralf Rangnick as interim manager following the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “This guy is not even a coach,” Ronaldo said. “A big club like Manchester United bringing a sporting director surprised not only me but all the world.” He agreed with Morgan's assessment that it was a “ridiculous decision” and suggested he had never heard of Rangnick. “Of course not,” he said. “Deep inside me, I never saw him as the boss.” Ronaldo blamed the “structure” of the club for the decision to hire someone like Rangnick.
Ronaldo said he was surprised that the young players at United didn't use him as more of an example. “They listen to one thing, and in two minutes they already forgot and do whatever they think is better," he said. Without naming names, Ronaldo said “they don't care.” “Some ones, yes," he said. "But most of them, no. But for me, it's not surprising because they aren't going to have longevity in their career, in my opinion. It's impossible." Ronaldo then went on to say Diogo Dalot, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro were exceptions at United.
Ronaldo announced in April that one of his newborn twins had died, and he told Morgan it was one of the toughest periods of his life. He thanked the English public for the support he got during that time and said he even received a letter from Britain's royal family offering their condolences.
Ronaldo said he had been hurt by criticism in the media from former United teammate Wayne Rooney, saying it wasn't long ago that the ex-England striker was in his house picking up his kids. Was it jealousy, asked Morgan? “Probably,” the 37-year-old Ronaldo replied. “Because he finished his career in his 30s and I'm still playing at a high level. I'm not going to say I'm looking better than him — which is true, but...” Ronaldo added: "It is hard to listen to that criticism and negativity from people who played with you.”
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press