Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo said he regretted leaving early during the English Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur in October, but added that his decision to walk off came because he felt “provoked” by manager Erik ten Hag.
On Oct 19, ten Hag said Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute in the 2-0 home win over Spurs before walking down the tunnel with a few minutes of the match remaining. The Portuguese superstar was then left out of the squad who faced Chelsea the following Saturday.
A couple of weeks before the Spurs game, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had been left on the bench for United’s away defeat by Manchester City, with ten Hag saying that he had opted not to bring on the 37-year-old in the 6-3 thrashing out of respect for his career.
“You don’t put me on against Manchester City because of respect for my career and you want to put me on for three minutes against Tottenham? It doesn’t make sense,” Ronaldo told Piers Morgan in an interview for TalkTV, the second part of which aired on Thursday.
“I think he did it on purpose. I felt provoked not only because of that game, but before. He doesn’t respect (me) the way I should deserve. But it is what it is. This is why probably, the game against Tottenham, I left.
“I will be honest with you, it’s something that I regret, leaving the stadium (against Tottenham)... A coach to put me in three minutes in a game (is) not allowed for me. Sorry, I’m not that kind of player. I know what I can give to the teams.”
“I think it was a strategy from the club for me to react that way,” added Ronaldo, who alleged he was being forced out of the club.
“I was very, very, very, very disappointed for the communication of Manchester United. “To be honest, I never had a problem with any club, with any coach and they suspend me three days, which I felt was a lot.”
United said on Monday that they would address Ronaldo’s comments that he felt betrayed by the club and was being forced out only after establishing the full facts.
Former United captain Gary Neville said on Thursday that they now have no option but to rescind Ronaldo’s contract, which runs until the end of the season.
Ronaldo was reportedly keen to leave the club even before the 2022-23 campaign began after United failed to qualify for the Champions League. He said he turned down an offer from Saudi Arabia worth €350 million (S$498.4 million) over two seasons and dismissed claims there was a lack of interest from other European clubs.
“The garbage press say that nobody wanted me, which is completely wrong. I was happy here, I was motivated to do a great season here,” he said on staying at United.
“But they continue to repeat: ‘Nobody wanted Cristiano’. How are they going to not want a player who last season scored 32 goals including (for the) national team.”
Ronaldo revealed he hopes to keep playing until he is 40, but is looking forward to his fifth, and most likely final, World Cup in Qatar. The tournament has been shrouded in controversy over human rights violations in the Gulf state and corruption claims in the bidding process.
But the Portugal captain said the “focus” should be on football and a first-ever World Cup in November and December.
“We should focus only on football. The competition for people to enjoy,” he added.
“I see a good tournament to be honest. Qatar, they are prepared. It will be weird to play in the beginning of the season, but also a challenge.”
Ronaldo missed Portugal’s only warm-up game with Nigeria on Thursday due to a stomach bug. However, Fernando Santos’ side crushed the African nation 4-0, with goals from Bruno Fernandes (brace), Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario.