Ronaldo’s walkout marks the final curtain on his waning power at Manchester United | Jaime Jackson

VSRistiano Ronaldo’s last outing against Manchester United marked two important endings. The final curtain on the fans’ unconditional love for a sulky superstar who, as an unused substitute, couldn’t bear to stay to celebrate a scintillating victory over Tottenham. It’s also the death knell for this 37-year-old superstar being of relevance – for Erik ten Hag and the United team he’s looking to build.

Both are connected. Fans witness their team’s finest display in recent memory and see a man who makes around £500,000 a week sulk because Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen and Anthony Elanga were favorites when his manager made changes. They watch a footballer who enjoys pure hero status due to his genius throw it back at them by acting as if he can and should outshine their club.

More material is how performing a second crush in less than three months highlights Ronaldo’s declining power. In July, at half-time in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano, Ten Hag had the temerity to replace a player who was not close to form after missing most of the pre-season (due to of a family problem). Ronaldo’s reaction was to leave Old Trafford before the final whistle in an early challenge to the new manager’s authority. He was also a squad member who, earlier in the summer, had sent out smoke signals that he wanted to leave.

Cut to Sunday and United’s display of class as they honored Ronaldo’s remarkable feat of 700 club goals with an on-pitch presentation from Sir Alex Ferguson, which was followed by a (now hardly new) displeasure from to have been removed in the goalless draw with Newcastle.

Three days later, Ten Hag restored Marcus Rashford to the XI at Ronaldo’s expense. The 52-year-old, whose management combines people skills, intelligence, tactical acumen and a tough side, was concise in explaining why. His legs, quite simply, weren’t up to the “good press” needed to fight Antonio Conte’s visitors.

Cue Tottenham expertly smothered as the tactical ploy worked like a dream, with goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes handing United a fine triumph. All without Ronaldo, whose avoidance of Ten Hag even as a substitute showed his decline into further insignificance, having previously only come on as a substitute in wins over Liverpool (2-1) and Arsenal (3-1) . As a damning verdict from Ten Hag on the import of Ronaldo was also found, the manager ignored it when the team was badly beaten at Manchester City (6-3): instead, Rashford and Jadon Sancho took been the ordeal sent for Ten Hag.

It’s not Ronaldo’s fault that he is in the winter of a sparkling career. But what he could do is accept that while continuing to fight – in the right way – for a starting spot. What will be the next installment of the Ronaldo soap opera intrigues, although Ten Hag’s observation suggests the manager will play a shrewd hand. For Wednesday’s strop, he will surely fine Ronaldo and while any action can stand internally, there is the material question of how the teammates he deserted on Wednesday view the moody superstar.

Cristiano Ronaldo crosses the tunnel to leave
Cristiano Ronaldo crosses the tunnel to start again late in the game against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Photography: Matt West/Shutterstock

Respect can evaporate – not for talent, hard work, serial silverware, personal honors and 817 career finishes – but for a character who continues to suggest being the antithesis of spirit. all for one that Ten Hag knows is vital to achieving Success.

The manager will be aware that Ronaldo can still be a potent weapon – mainly on the bench – so expect him to offer calm dispatches at Friday’s press conference when asked about the matter, the player value and future. All responses will be parsed for subtext as one inescapable truth is that the ideal scenario – for Ten Hag, his squad and Ronaldo – would be for the player to leave as soon as possible – which is in the January window.

Few (if any) clubs able to afford a player on Ronaldo’s salary was a major reason why he didn’t leave in the summer. But while that same issue seems to persist regarding the winter market, as the side evolves, it seems increasingly irrelevant. Stepping out on Wednesday, Ronaldo reinforced Ten Hag’s assessment that he is peripheral to United – there to be deployed when and if needed, but by no means a shoo-in for the XI based on former glories and past glories. a sparkling resume.

As a metaphor too, for his second coming to United (after the 2003-09 spell), Ronaldo is striding away: it indicates he is a cipher, a garlanded perfectionist who, despite being l ‘one of the greatest, remains unknowable, whose profile beyond the pitch is via image-conscious and choreographed social media posts, with the real personality fiercely guarded.

Perhaps he will take the opportunity to change a little with a soul-searching that could lead to an apology issued for Wednesday evening and the revelation of the man behind the mask. But maybe he won’t.

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