Neville and Keane clash over Ronaldo's Man United future

Neville and Keane clash in a ferocious debate over Ronaldo’s Man United future… with Neville insisting their old pal must leave while the Irishman blames boss Ten Hag for his walkout against Spurs

  • Roy Keane and Gary Neville clashed on Saturday night over Cristiano Ronaldo
  • It comes after he refused to come on and left Old Trafford early against Spurs
  • Keane defended Ronaldo, arguing he should not be happy at not playing
  • Neville felt manager Erik ten Hag had dealt with the situation ‘really well’ 

Roy Keane jumped to the defence of Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday night, claiming his walk-out against Tottenham was born out of pure frustration — though he can’t see a way back at Manchester United for the Portuguese star.

Ronaldo was axed by furious boss Erik ten Hag ahead of Saturday night’s match at Chelsea and told to train with the Under-21s after refusing to come off the bench late on in Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over Spurs. 

The 37-year-old’s actions were roundly condemned, with Keane’s former team-mate Gary Neville suggesting that talks should go take place this week which end with Ronaldo being axed for good at Old Trafford.

Gary Neville and Roy Keane disagreed strongly about Man United striker Cristiano Ronaldo

But Keane, while agreeing that Ronaldo might have played his last game for United, also showed sympathy for the five-time world player of the year, instead pinning some of the blame on Ten Hag for not summoning the United legend earlier. 

‘He [Ten Hag] is disappointed Ronaldo didn’t want to go on but he’s had enough, he’s lost his head,’ Keane told Sky Sports.

‘And he’s been punished. But it’s been brewing for the last few weeks. He’s a human being, he’s got flaws, he’s frustrated he’s not got opportunities. He’s had enough.

‘I think they asked the manager in the press conference “did Ronaldo refuse to go on?” But they should have asked him “when was he going to put him on?” Late in the game, two or three minutes to go? But he’s got to take his punishment.’

Ten Hag took swift disciplinary action against Ronaldo — forcing him to train alone on Friday as well as omitting him from the squad at Chelsea — as the relationship between the two hit rock bottom. 

Ronaldo was sent to train with the U21s for leaving Old Trafford before full time on Wednesday

Ronaldo, United’s top scorer last season, has started just two Premier League games this season and cares deeply for the club, according to Keane.

‘I’d be more worried if Ronaldo sits on the bench every week laughing his head off, not caring,’ said the Irishman. 

‘I think the guy cares. I’ve said before, this game’s full of bluffers — he’s not one of them. He loves the club, he needs to play, he wants to play. Of course he’s not the player he was ten years ago but he was still their leading scorer last season.

‘He went to Man United, a bad Man United, really bad and was still their leading scorer.’

But on Ronaldo’s future, Keane is convinced it ends one way. ‘Will he come back to the team before the World Cup? I don’t see it.’


GN: For me, Erik ten Hag had no choice, no option. Cristiano’s left the ground twice, you can’t do that. His Instagram post said I respect my teammates, and sometimes in the heat of the moment, you do something wrong. 

On the eve of pre-season, he asked for a transfer. He’s building up a list of things. It’s a messy end, and Ten Hag is trying to establish control.

I always think about the fact Ronaldo has played hundreds of games where players have had to watch him. You have to make sure you’re in the changing room, shaking players’ hands, then you have it out with the manager separately. It’s not about Erik ten Hag. 

He had no other choice, but the players in the dressing room had to have some action against them. Lots of players have watched him; now he’s had to watch them. Your career’s like a mountain; you’re in for a few games, out the team, get in, then you get to the top of the mountain.

Then you have to accept whether you play for a big club and accept less games or you go to a lesser club and play all the time, and Cristiano is going to have to go to somewhere else that’s going to play him every week because he can’t accept being on the bench. That’s fine. 

End it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup. It’s not doing him any favours. Leaving the dressing room before full-time, that’s not what he does. If you’re doing things like that, you’ve got to leave.

RK: Gary, there are players at Man United who have done a lot worse than what he’s done? 

GN: In this current moment?

RK: Where do you want me to get started? Scholesy, great lad… let me finish. Scholesy refused to play at Man United.

GN: I know he did.

RK: We said nothing to him.

GN: He was fined two weeks’ wages.

RK: Ronaldo will be fined for this; he’ll find his way back. Rio Ferdinand missed a drug test; he got banned for eight monnths. Cantona…”

GN: He was banned for six months.

RK: Yeah, who’s fault is that? The club’s fault or the teammates?

GN: Do you not think Cristiano Ronaldo should be punished this week?

RK: Dead right. You’re saying he can’t deal with being a sub. He was top goalscorer [last season].  

GN: He can’t.

RK: They played Man City a few weeks ago, and it could’ve been 16. The manager says I’m not bringing him on because he didn’t want to disrespect. He goes to Everton a week later, comes on, scores a goal. Starts against Newcastle…

GN: Roy, there are not many Manchester United fans who would have Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting 11.

RK: I couldn’t care less what fans think. I couldn’t care less. A lot of the fans haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

GN: They score more goals without him, and they get more points without him. That’s a fact. He’s coming to the end of his career. Manchester United are a better team without him. He’s just got to get used to it or leave.

RK: That’s fine. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, which he obviously thinks, there are arguments for and against.

GN: I heard you before the game. Your mentality is a unique mentality. You’re fiercely competitive. You have to play. Normal folk, normal players, that’s not what you do. Leave the changing room and go off the pitch.”

RK: You keep talking about Man United being better without Ronaldo. Let’s look at the start of the season; he didn’t play against Man City.

GN: Do you not think they’re better without him? Come on…

RK: In the starting 11? No, I wouldn’t say that.

GN: I think they’re better without him. 

And Neville believes Ronaldo’s second stint at the club needs to be ended soon. 

‘That’s the second time that Cristiano Ronaldo has left Old Trafford in his car before his team-mates have got into the changing room and I have to say, that — from a point of view from a football dressing room — is something that is unacceptable,’ said Neville.

‘When you look at whether Cristiano Ronaldo should be selected, Man United are better without him and Erik ten Hag knows that.

‘So I think the only thing that the club and Cristiano can do is get together in this next week or so and end the relationship. I think Cristiano’s too good a player and too big a character, and the club have to move on.

‘Cristiano Ronaldo has played hundreds of games in the last 10 years where players have had to sit on the bench and watch him. Now it’s his turn. He has to sit on the bench and make sure he’s in that dressing room at the end, shake the players’ hands and then have it out with the manager separately. 

‘Erik ten Hag was left with no other choice and the players had to have action against him because he wasn’t there for them. 

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink felt Ronaldo was ‘not giving enough back’ to justify his behaviour 

Erik ten Hag’s side performed reasonably well without Ronaldo on Saturday against Chelsea

‘Cristiano Ronaldo is going to have to go somewhere else that’s going to play him every week because he can’t accept being on the bench. End it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup because it has to end. Cristiano is doing himself no favours.’

But Ronaldo’s sister Katia hit out at Ten Hag, claiming the Dutchman lacked the stature to have dropped her brother, comparing his axing to the Crucifixion.

In an impassioned tirade on Instagram she raged: ‘No-one who was born to shine by the hands of God will be undone by someone who has never worn his shoes. He is and will be history. There is a verse in the bible that says: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross”.’

She signed off her post by saying she felt ‘privileged to have been born in the same family as this marvellous human being’.

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