Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t return to Manchester United to play in the Europa League. And with the Red Devils stuck in a rut under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that’s the fate that could fall on the Portugal international. Therefore, it’s not entirely out of the question he’ll demand to leave the club at the end of the season if they find themselves stuck in Europe’s second-tier club competition next term.
United signed Ronaldo during the summer transfer window.
The Portugal international had looked set to join Manchester City, especially after Pep Guardiola missed out on securing the services of Tottenham hitman Harry Kane.
But United won the race for Ronaldo instead and, upon returning, the Portugal international outlined a desire to stay for three or four years.
“This is why I am here,” said Ronaldo.
“I am not here for a vacation. As I told you, before was good, winning important things and I wore the shirt before many years ago, but I am here to win again.
“I am capable, me and my team-mates. I am ready to go, I am ready to go. It is a good chance for me, for the supporters, for the club, to get one step ahead.
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Ronaldo has been left shocked by the fall in standards at United, believing the club is virtually unrecognisable to the one he left in 2009.
And, throughout his whole career, he’s never played in the Europa League.
Ronaldo was already two years into his career at Real Madrid when the Red Devils first participated in the competition, in 2009.
And he returned to the club this summer because they had Champions League football to offer.
Ronaldo remains determined to win that trophy again, especially now Lionel Messi is strutting his stuff at Paris Saint-Germain.
And if United continue to falter, they won’t be involved in the competition next term.
Ronaldo returned because he wanted to win the biggest prizes in the game.
And the veteran’s performances in Europe have the air of a man who is determined to avoid playing in the Europa League.
It’s hard to imagine him accepting playing in that tournament, having never done so before.
And there would likely be an abundance of clubs who would take Ronaldo on board if United find themselves powerless to prevent their slide down the table.
For now, an exit is merely possible.
But it’ll become probable the more United toil, in something that would undoubtedly alarm the Glazers.
Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, recently expressed a belief that Ronaldo would see playing in the Europa League as a ‘stain’ on his career.
“He’s more intense now,” he told The Athletic.
“When you sit with him he is thinking about the little percentages, little details, because he knows he’s in the latter end of his career — he needs to care even more now.
“That is probably his most important quality, outside of the physical attributes he’s been blessed with. His mindset is unrivalled.”
And he added: “I think he would see the Europa League as a blemish on his resume.
“That’s where his standards are. He has nine goals this season and they’ve almost all been game-changing. Crazy.
“I don’t know in the history of the game if there’s been a more clutch player than him.”