Cristiano Ronaldo gave off mixed messages on his return to action after suggesting he is happy despite leaving Old Trafford early.
The 37-year-old had failed to kick a ball during pre-season matches, missing both of the Red Devils’ overseas tours. But he was back in the starting XI as Manchester United welcomed Spanish side Rayo Vallecano to Old Trafford. The game ended 1-1 as 20-year-old Amad Diallo gave the hosts the lead at the beginning of the second period.
Alvaro Garcia equalised for Los Franjirrojos just nine minutes later, picking up the rebound after Tom Heaton had saved Isaac Palazon Camacho’s shot.
Ronaldo had just one effort during the opening 45 minutes but blazed his shot over the bar. The Portugal ace did not return for the second half as Erik ten Hag opted to rotate his players.
However, pictures emerged of the former Real Madrid star leaving the Theatre of Dreams before the final whistle had sounded.
His future at the club has been the subject of many column inches over the summer. Unhappy about the side’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, it seems as though he is keen to leave.
The ex-Juventus striker arrived at the club’s training ground earlier in the week for showdown talks with Ten Hag.
But there has been no change in the boss’s stance that he wants the legendary forward in his ranks for the 2022-2023 campaign.
Whether or not that meets with Ronaldo’s approval is open to debate, with Sporting seemingly keen to offer him a route out of the club.
Ronaldo looks to placate United fans
It is unclear whether the veteran had been given permission to leave the ground before the game ended. But he soon took to Instagram, writing ‘Happy to be back’!
It was his first appearance since the end of last season but doubts remain whether he will be in the side beyond the closure of the transfer window.
In addition to Sporting, Atletico Madrid are said to hold an interest. They can, like Sporting, offer Champions League football and so may appear attractive to the superstar.
However, it is easy to see why Ten Hag wants to keep him on the north west. Despite United’s struggles in 2021-2022, Ronaldo managed to bag 18 Premier League goals and 24 in all competitions.
Despite his age, they relied on him for goals and may well do so over the next 10 months if he does stay. There have been no striking additions to the ranks, with Christian Erikson the most attack-minded player recruited during the off-season.
There is still time for Ten Hag to bring in a new face but it is a familiar one that he wants to see line up against Brighton next Sunday.