Cristiano Ronaldo has said he was close to joining Manchester City but a talk with Sir Alex Ferguson changed his mind. The forward also claimed younger players “don’t care” as much about football as his generation in his TalkTV interview with Piers Morgan.
Part one of the interview was aired on Wednesday night, following the drip feed of social media snippets this week. In it, Ronaldo confirmed he had spoken with Ferguson before his return to Manchester United last summer, with his former manager at Old Trafford telling him a move to City was “impossible”.
“I wouldn’t say that Manchester City wasn’t close,” Ronaldo said. “But as you know, my history in Manchester United, your heart, you’re feeling the way that you did before, makes the difference. And of course, as well, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“I spoke with him. He said to me ‘it’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City’. And I say ‘OK, boss’. I did [make] a conscious decision, and I repeat, I was with conscience that it was a good decision.”
Ronaldo also hit out at younger players making their way through the professional game, claiming “they don’t suffer – and they don’t care. Their hunger [is different] … I think they have things more easily, everything’s easy.”
“They don’t care – some ones, yes, but most of them no,” he added. “But for me that is not surprising because they are not going to have longevity in their careers. It is impossible. In my generation you see many players reach 36, 37, 38 at a high level and I think this generation you will count on one hand how many will reach that level.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Raphaël Varane has admitted Ronaldo’s interview – in which he fiercely criticised Manchester United’s owners and the manager, Erik ten Hag – has sent shockwaves through the squad.
In clips released on social media, Ronaldo told Morgan he did not respect Ten Hag and claimed a number of individuals at United were trying to force him out. The 37‑year‑old forward also claimed the Glazer family, owners since 2005, did not care about the club.
United are taking legal advice – and awaiting broadcast of the full interview – before issuing a response and while a statement did say their “focus remains on … continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built”, the effects of the interview are clearly being felt by the rest of the United players.
Varane, who is preparing for the World Cup with France, told the radio station Europe 1: “Obviously it affects us. We follow what is happening and what is being said. We try to calm the situation in our own way, we try not to get too involved in it.
When it’s a star like Ronaldo, even more so we try to take it with distance, that is to say that we do not try to change the situation alone, we are part of a collective. What I want is the best for my team so whatever the decision [by the club], as a player, we will accept it and give the best of ourselves.”
Ronaldo missed training with Portugal on Wednesday because of a stomach bug. It caps an eventful week for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has also been involved in awkward exchanges with his international teammates, Bruno Fernandes and João Cancelo. Portugal will get their World Cup campaign under way next week against Ghana.
Meanwhile, the France squad have announced they have pledged to financially support non‑governmental organisations and charities which work towards the protection of human rights.
The World Cup has been tainted by the appalling lack of protection for migrant workers who have endured exploitative, even deadly, conditions as Qatar prepared for the tournament while the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights has also cast a long shadow over the event.
“We are players, we have this way of expressing ourselves, but it’s human that we expressed this through this letter,” said Varane, France’s vice-captain.“It’s also a lot of light [shone] on us and we also want to express humanly what we feel.”