Cristiano Ronaldo will not be involved in Manchester United’s trip to Chelsea following behaviour that has raised fresh questions about his future.
Having been warned about leaving early in the wake of July’s friendly against Rayo Vallecano, manager Erik ten Hag punished the 37-year-old Portuguese for his exit from Wednesday’s 2-0 win against Tottenham.
Not only did Ronaldo head down the tunnel before the clock had hit 90 minutes but the United manager confirmed that the frontman refused to come on as a substitute.
Ten Hag insists the former Real Madrid and Juventus star “remains an important part of the squad” despite being banished for the Chelsea game for an incident that has renewed speculation about his Old Trafford future.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some options as the January transfer window approaches.
Ronaldo stays put
Cristiano Ronaldo rejoined United in August 2021 (Martin Rickett/PA)
Ronaldo’s move to United in August 2021 sent shockwaves around the footballing world as he returned to a club where he won medals aplenty during his first stint. But within a year the veteran was looking to leave Old Trafford, where his deal runs until next summer and includes a clause to stay for a further season. United have repeatedly said they want the 37-year-old to stay and he may decide this is not the way he wants to leave a club at which he is revered.
Return to Sporting?
Ronaldo became a global star during his first period with United but it was Sporting that helped cultivate his early talent. The forward has regularly been linked with a return to the club he left aged 18 and retains a strong connection with Sporting, who have a section dedicated to him in their museum and renamed their academy training facilities after him. The player’s mother, Dolores Aveiro, has previously said she wants to eventually see him back playing for the Lisbon club.
Up sticks to Saudi Arabia?
Al Hilal played Chelsea at the FIFA Club World Cup (PA)
While Ronaldo wished to leave Old Trafford in the summer, none of Europe’s elite swooped for the aging star. A swathe of names were mentioned as potential destinations but the only offer came from Saudi Arabia. It is reported that Al Hilal were the club who approached Ronaldo about a potential two-year deal worth 275million euros (£233.4million). That was not attractive enough then but perhaps things are different now.
Will Chelsea rekindle their interest?
Cristiano Ronaldo has done battle with Chelsea plenty of times down the years (Adam Davy/PA)
While it never got beyond initial conversations, Chelsea sounded Ronaldo out about a potential switch that the Portugal ace was reportedly open to. Chelsea’s new ownership group, led by Todd Boehly, eventually ended their interest in the United frontman but perhaps recent events may spark a conversation when the sides meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday without Ronaldo in tow.