Cristiano Ronaldo stressed he needs to win regular trophies to justify the sacrifices he makes into his late 30s at a time when Man Utd are poised to go five straight seasons without silverware.
Ronaldo was greeted to a hero’s reception when re-joining Man Utd last summer. The Portuguese icon wasted little time reminding fans what he is capable of when notching a brace on his debut against Newcastle.
Vital late goals were plundered in the Champions League, though United’s season quickly took a turn for the worse.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was removed after humbling defeats to Liverpool, Man City and Watford. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick took charge, but United continued to fall further behind title-chasing pair City and Liverpool.
The chance at silverware came and went in both the EFL Cup and FA Cup. The Champions League is still up for grabs with their Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid finely poised after the first leg. However, even the most optimistic of United fans knows there chances in that competition are slim.
As such, speculation had begun to swirl over a premature Ronaldo exit.
The 37-year-old’s contract runs until the summer of 2023 with United holding an option for a further 12 months. However, both PSG and Real Madrid have drawn tentative links with a summer coup.
Icon yearning for more despite enjoying return
Now, speaking to DAZN, Ronaldo has left the door ajar for an early United exit.
Ronaldo initially spoke in glowing terms about moving to Old Trafford on each occasion, stating: “Leaving Sporting and coming to Manchester was the change of my life.
“And now coming back at 36 was also a very nice moment in my life, being a family man, with many children, winning what I already won in football, showing everything what I had to demonstrate and create a page in the history of football.
“But apart from that, what I wanted was to get there and show myself that I was capable of playing at a high level.
“I think I didn’t disappoint expectations, because maybe people were expecting a different Cristiano and no, it was the other way around.
“I arrived well, scoring goals, mainly in the Champions League, which I scored in all the games. I feel good, it was a nice change to return home so many years later. For me it was an enormous pride and satisfaction.”
Criticism has been levelled at Ronaldo for his lack of workrate when United are out of possession. Ronaldo stressed that at his age, he must exhibit “intelligence” and “maturity” when understanding he can’t do everything.
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“You have to be intelligent and know that at 18, 20 or 25 you are not the same as at 35,” he continued. “And that is the maturity, the experience, the intelligence to understand that maybe you lose some things to win others and have balance. right to keep competing and be at the highest level.
“That’s not easy, but it seems like it to me. Because I show year after year that the numbers speak for themselves. I don’t have to tell you that I’m very good, because the numbers are there. The facts are facts, the rest is not It doesn’t matter at all.
“That’s why I’m very happy with my form, I’m still scoring goals, helping people, teams, both in the national team and at Manchester United and that’s why I want to continue like this.”
There has to be a “reward in the end” – Ronaldo
Ronaldo then admitted it’s “hard to say” he doesn’t want more when speaking about how his efforts will likely go unrewarded this season.
United are unlikely to lift silverware once again, with their last trophy coming via the Europa League in 2017.
Ronaldo spoke about needing to win trophies and scoop individual awards each year to help justify the sacrifices he makes to compete at the top level aged 37. Given United’s current predicament, Ronaldo seemingly left the door ajar for an early departure.
“It’s hard to say that I don’t want more,” said the striker. “Because if I’m at a club that gives me the opportunity to win more things, why not. And in the national team too.
“I know I don’t have many years left playing, four or five more, We’ll see, and I want to win more things.”
“The sacrifice that I make every year, every season, weekly, monthly, daily, has to have its reward in the end, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know much.
“But that’s my motivation. To work, but to think that in the end I’m going to win something important, a title, an award.
“My life was a very beautiful journey. I have left a mark everywhere I have been. I think there is no player in history who can be proud to say that wherever he has gone, he has left a mark, and that makes me happy.”