Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy is being tainted by his second Man Utd spell


CRISTIANO RONALDO looked a tortured figure as he exited Old Trafford on Saturday night.

With the temperature dropping and the wind and rain swirling, hundreds of fans waited for a glimpse, a selfie, an autograph.

Cristiano Ronaldo endured a desperate afternoon on Saturday and his days as a top-class star are over

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Cristiano Ronaldo endured a desperate afternoon on Saturday and his days as a top-class star are overCredit: Getty
The 37-year-old looked well of the pace at Old Trafford

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The 37-year-old looked well of the pace at Old TraffordCredit: EPA

But the Portuguese star was not playing ball.

In fact, he had not played ball much all day.

This was as poor a Ronaldo performance as the old ground had witnessed.

The truth that is now staring everyone in the face, and clearly Ronaldo himself, is that his days as a top-class footballer are over.

It has been an admirable battle against father time but he is now losing it.

“History has been written in the past and history will be written once again, you have my word.”

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Those were his words on an emotional return to the club.

But this chapter is unfortunately not one he or any Manchester United fan will want to be re-reading.

It is of a legend whose legacy is now being tainted.

The return is coinciding with what will probably be the worst season in Manchester United’s Premier League history.

He is central to it as well. The player who was meant to lift everyone up has instead dragged people down.

I have reported before on this website how younger players feel intimidated by him.

Recent performances are a far cry from Ronaldo's heyday

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Recent performances are a far cry from Ronaldo’s heydayCredit: AP

They feel like they have to pass to him rather than trust their own instincts.

They are wary of any mistake for the rebuke they might get.

He is a divisive figure, not a galvinising one.

The problem, though, is that when the ball is at his feet, or on his head, there is no magic any more, it has all gone.

Take Saturday, when he rounded Southampton keeper Fraser Forster in the first half.

He just had to hit it. Instead, he tried to pass the ball into the net and there was not enough power.

He left Old Trafford for Madrid in 2009 already a legend

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He left Old Trafford for Madrid in 2009 already a legendCredit: PA

Time and again he gets caught offside because he knows the speed is no longer there and he has to set off early.

Take the scenario at the end of the first period when he went down the left and set up Paul Pogba for a goal that was ruled out. Ronaldo was miles off. A younger player in that situation may not have been.

SunSport reported on Saturday morning that 37-year-old Ronaldo himself is now wondering whether this season may have to be his last. Whether he can indeed do it any more.

Perhaps, instead, it is time that he just accepts he can only play every other game.

The manager, Ralf Rangnick, clearly thinks that which is why he benched him for the trip to Turf Moor last week.

But look at Ronaldo’s reaction, sprinting off the pitch at the end in a hissy fit rather than shake hands with the opposition or acknowledge the away fans.

Boss Ralf Rangnick is attempting to manager Ronaldo's workload

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Boss Ralf Rangnick is attempting to manager Ronaldo’s workloadCredit: AFP

This was one staunch home-and-away fan’s reaction after that: “People are getting fed up with him. And doing things like that is increasing everyone’s anger and frustration towards him. It’s all about him”.

Ronaldo’s barren scoring spell of no goals in his last six games is his worst drought since January 2009, when he was at the peak of his powers.

Mind you, it is not like the goals are flowing in from elsewhere.

Jadon Sancho’s first-half opener was once again not built upon as Che Adams equalised early in the second half.

It was the same scenario for United as in the FA Cup match against Middlesbrough and trip to Burnley.

They start well and finish a shambles. The usual after-match platitudes no longer wash.

Paul Scholes has questioned United players' commitment

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Paul Scholes has questioned United players’ commitmentCredit: EPA

Club legend Paul Scholes’ damning assessment from the BT Sport studio that some players were not trying was contested by interim boss Rangnick.

But you cannot argue with the former United midfielder.

Whether it is intentional is another thing, there is no doubt some of these players hide when the tide in a game starts to turn against them.

That incredible afternoon back on September 11 seems a long time ago now.

Ronaldo had returned and he scored twice in a 4-1 home win over Newcastle.

The season had started with three wins and a draw.

The star's goalscoring return already seems a lifetime ago

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The star’s goalscoring return already seems a lifetime agoCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

Manchester United were back.

They are back now, in a very dark time.

They have won only eight of their 20 Premier League games since that afternoon and are outside the top four.

This is a situation Ronaldo does not recognise.

The problem is he is now a player we don’t recognise either.

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