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Cristiano Ronaldo: Should Manchester United forward stay or leave?

Cristiano Ronaldo was Man Utd's top scorer last season with 24 goals; Ronaldo previously said he was "very happy" but now wants to leave amid concerns over trophies and transfers; Man Utd insist he is not for sale; Sky Sports discusses the reasons for and against his potential departure

What challenges await Erik Ten Hag at Old Trafford?
Image: Will Cristiano Ronaldo still be playing for Manchester United under Erik ten Hag next season?

Manchester United insist Cristiano Ronaldo is not for sale despite the forward asking to leave the club this summer. With at least one year remaining on his contract, Sky Sports looks at the reasons for and against his potential departure.

Speaking at the beginning of June, Ronaldo said he was "very happy" to remain at United and predicted they would rebound from a dreadful 2021/22 season.

But just one month later, the Portugal captain has had a change of heart and wants to leave Old Trafford amid concerns over trophies and transfers. United insist he is not for sale.

The 37-year-old returned to Manchester last summer - 12 years after originally leaving for Real Madrid - and netted 24 goals in 38 games to finish as the club's top scorer in all competitions.

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We take a look at some of Cristiano Ronaldo's best goals in the Premier League

But while it was a strong campaign in front of goal for Ronaldo, it was a disastrous one for the team. United finished sixth in the Premier League and failed to lift a trophy for a fifth consecutive season.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has played in the Champions League for 19 campaigns in a row and United's failure to qualify for the competition is understood to be a key reason for wanting to depart the club for a second time.

As United's players look to impress new boss Erik ten Hag ahead of their Premier League opener against Brighton on August 7, live on Sky Sports, Ronaldo's future is now an unwelcome distraction.

Also See:

Sky Sports' Dan Sansom discusses the reasons for and against him leaving this summer...

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Michael Bridge reports that Cristiano Ronaldo has asked to leave Manchester United but the club insist he has another year on his deal

Ronaldo can succeed in Ten Hag's system

New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is expected to recreate a brand of the high-intensity style he employed at Ajax, which raises questions about how Ronaldo will cope with his demands if he remains at the club.

While Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has admitted pressing is not Ronaldo's strong point, he feels Ten Hag "will want someone who can put the ball in the back of the net 20 or 25 times".

Ronaldo's 24 goals in all competitions last season dwarfed the return of his team-mates. Bruno Fernandes was the club's next highest scorer on 10 goals, followed by Mason Greenwood on six.

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Speaking in May, Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher discussed whether Cristiano Ronaldo has a role to play at Manchester United next season

Once a tricky and dynamic winger, Ronaldo has now evolved into a prolific No 9 but has shown he can still link up effectively with those behind him.

Ten Hag could look to use the veteran in a similar way to how he deployed Dusan Tadic while Ajax boss. During the 2018/19 season, when Ten Hag's side reached the Champions League semi-finals, Tadic played up front but combined well with Hakim Ziyech and David Neres on either wing and Donny van de Beek just behind him.

That system worked perfectly for Ten Hag with each player complementing each other, but if the 52-year-old is to successfully implement a similar set-up next season, finding the right personnel to fit around Ronaldo is a must.

Neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nor Ralf Rangnick were able to work out the correct formula, but Ronaldo's prolific form in front of goal means Ten Hag would surely want his team to function productively with the 37-year-old in it - at least during his first year in charge.

Man Utd with and without Cristiano Ronaldo

Ten Hag wants Ronaldo | Ronaldo happy with Ten Hag

Before the latest developments, both Ronaldo and Ten Hag expressed their desire to work with each other.

After being unveiled as the new United manager, Ten Hag swiftly announced he was eager to keep Ronaldo.

Asked if Ronaldo fits into his project, Ten Hag said in May: "Of course."

On what Ronaldo will bring, he simply added: "Goals!"

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In his first news conference as Manchester United manager, Erik ten Hag said Cristiano Ronaldo can continue to provide goals for the team

Ronaldo had welcomed the arrival of Ten Hag, insisting the Dutchman can secure more silverware for the club.

"I know he did a fantastic job for Ajax and that he's an experienced coach but we need to give him time," said Ronaldo. "Things need to change the way he wants.

"I hope we have success, of course, because if you have success all of Manchester are going to have success as well. So I wish him the best.

"We are happy and excited, not only the players but the supporters as well. I wish him the best and let's believe that next year we're going to win trophies."

Is Ronaldo's experience vital?

It might sound obvious given his age, but Ronaldo's experience is arguably even more important next season following a number of high-profile departures and as Ten Hag finds his feet.

Veterans Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata have all left Old Trafford - along with Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard - while Lee Grant's retirement leaves Ronaldo as the oldest and most senior figure at the club.

His 18 Premier League goals single-handedly won games last season and his performances in the Champions League dragged his side through to the last 16.

With several young players already at the club and the potential for more to arrive, Ronaldo's know-how could be crucial if Ten Hag is to be successful in his debut campaign.

Points won with goals
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Ten Hag's first huge test

Despite his experience, there is also an argument that United would be better off without Ronaldo in the dressing room. There's no doubting his dedication and professionalism, but could the rest of the squad benefit from the departure of such an ego?

Before Ten Hag was even announced as United manager, there was talk that the current squad were split over whether he is the right man to take charge at Old Trafford.

Much has been made of the undeniable step-up in scrutiny the Dutchman will face now he has made the switch to Manchester, but his biggest challenge will be managing the characters in the dressing room.

A lack of accountability on and off the pitch saw the players let down Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick. For so long, it seems the players have been given more power than the managers at United.

Ronaldo is not necessarily a disruptive figure, but the 2022/23 season has not even started and Ten Hag is already faced with a gargantuan decision - is his squad better off with or without one of the greatest players of all time?

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Could Sancho and Rashford benefit?

When Manchester United finally signed Jadon Sancho last summer, the prospect of him and Marcus Rashford dazzling on both wings was a mouth-watering prospect. Millions of United fans around the world believed the club had found two wide forwards fit to grace the Old Trafford pitch for the next decade.

One year later, though, both players are no longer in England manager Gareth Southgate's plans and face an uphill battle to force their way back into his squad for the World Cup in Qatar.

Jadon Sancho celebrates after scoring Man Utd's equaliser (AP)
Image: Jadon Sancho improved under former Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick after a tricky start to his Old Trafford career

Fifty goals in 137 games in four years at Borussia Dortmund, as well as twice being named in the Bundesliga team of the year, prompted United to spend £73m to secure Sancho's signature.

With Ten Hag's record of developing young players and the fact he is one of Europe's most progressive coaches, there is no doubt he remains a huge part of the club's long-term future.

And the same applies to Rashford. A shoulder injury delayed his start to last season and he struggled to perform since, scoring just twice since the end of October. With his current contract - which includes a one-year extension clause - expiring in 2023, reports he would consider his future at the club started to circulate.

But Rashford's ability is not the problem and in a recent interview with MUTV, the 24-year-old said he is confident of getting back to his best under Ten Hag.

He is already an experienced player for both club and country and unquestionably still has world-class talent. A new manager with fresh ideas, who is there for the long term and can rediscover the player who burst onto the scene as a fearless 18-year-old in 2016 is exactly what he needs.

If Ronaldo does depart the club this summer, it would not be a shock to see Sancho and Rashford as the main men the Dutchman builds his team around. Ronaldo's exit would make that process smoother.

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Marcus Rashford says he is ready for the new season and confident of getting back to his best after a summer break under new manager Erik ten Hag

A young, hungry striker to nurture?

Even if Ronaldo remains, it is clear the goalscoring burden at United needs to be shared. He will turn 38 next season, so it is obvious United need more options to make the difference in the final third. He won't be able to play three games a week consistently.

As former interim manager Rangnick said after April's draw with Chelsea: "Right now we very much rely on Cristiano."

A young striker to deputise for (or replace) Ronaldo is key. Whatever the outcome of his situation, it is vital United are successful in convincing a centre-forward to join this summer, with Edinson Cavani leaving and Anthony Martial's future up in the air after an underwhelming loan spell with Sevilla.

Ronaldo concerned by lack of transfer activity?

Could Ronaldo wanting to leave United force the club to improve or accelerate their transfer activity this summer?

Manchester City and Liverpool have already made high-profile signings. Top-four contenders Tottenham and Arsenal have also been busy while Chelsea appear to be wasting little time following the confirmation of new ownership.

Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes recently met Chelsea's new co-owner Todd Boehly and the forward was mentioned during the meeting, but United have no intention of selling him.

Man Utd top scorers

In June, Ronaldo said in an interview with the club: "I was happy, of course, to be back in a club that really raised my career, so it was unbelievable, the feeling when I came back again. It was nice to feel the supporters - the happiness of them was great.

"I was and still am very happy to be here, and what I have to say to the fans is they are amazing. Even when we lost games, they always support us, they always are with us. The supporters are always in my heart and it's the people that we all should respect because they are always on our side.

"For me, the most important thing is to try to win the games and try to win some championship or some cup, but I believe that Manchester will be where they belong. As I say before, sometimes it takes time but I still believe."

But as Old Trafford chiefs continue to struggle in the transfer market while their rivals succeed, it seems Ronaldo's belief has already diminished. Will the arrivals of Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia be enough to change his mind again?

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Where could Ronaldo go?

Portuguese football expert Pedro Sepulveda to Sky Sports:

"When the transfer window is open, it's normal that we talk about Cristiano Ronaldo. Manchester United are not in the Champions League next season and Ronaldo is unhappy about this.

"He is completely obsessed with playing in the competition so he's not living well with the reality that he's not going to be playing in it in the immediate future.

"He's spoken to his agent Jorge Mendes, who is seeing if there are any other options. He said he would speak to the clubs who are targeting winning the Champions League to see what could be done in terms of a change in this summer transfer window.

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Hugo Viana discusses the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Sporting Lisbon

"You can forget the English clubs - Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham - as I'm 100 per cent sure Ronaldo will not play for another club in England, while Ronaldo doesn't fit into the new project at PSG.

"It leaves Bayern Munich as an option. There wasn't an interest from Bayern but Mendes spoke with them and posed the question - 'what do you think about buying Ronaldo for next season?' Bayern were a little bit confused when Mendes offered them Ronaldo as he's not the type of player they'd usually look for.

"When an agent offers Ronaldo, you only need to look at the sporting performance - not the age. Ronaldo has a salary of around £25m so it's not easy for any club to afford. Mendes has asked Bayern about what they think.

"A swap with Robert Lewandowski isn't an option as he either stays or goes to Barcelona. These are just rumours at this stage, and it's normal when it comes to Ronaldo."

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Editor of United We Stand, Andy Mitten, reacts to the news that Cristiano Ronaldo has asked to leave Manchester United

Can Man Utd cope without Ronaldo? Your comments

We asked our readers whether or not Manchester United would be able to cope in the event of Ronaldo's potential exit. Here's a selection of the responses:

  • "Ronaldo's main concern with Man Utd at the moment is the lack of activity in the transfer market. The current squad is not good enough, as shown by performances last season, which is why Ronaldo may not feel like he can stay. The Glazers and board need to actually show they care." - Ryan
  • "They can cope without Cristiano because it would bring in a competitive spirit among the attackers to become a leader, a sensational striker and ambition to the team." - Mutende
  • "I was happy to have him back at first. Then after a few games in I saw the effect it was having on how the team played. The togetherness of the season before vanished and it became all about Cristiano." - Tom
  • "Ronaldo was always going to be a short-term fix to try and close the gap. But it didn't work out. With Anthony Martial returning from his loan, it's the right time to move Ronaldo on and give Martial the chance to shine once again." - Darren Gill
  • "Look at what Erik ten Hag did with Sebastien Haller. He flopped at West Ham but was one of the main men at Ajax. Can he do the same for Marcus Rashford and Martial next season?" - Stu

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer when the transfer window opens on June 10 and closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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