Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United after frustration at the team’s failure to secure Champions League qualification, but things are looking different compared to this time last year
Less than 12 months after Manchester United’s Champions League hopes died a death under Ralf Rangnick, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo looking for a way out, the club are back on track.
Ronaldo pushed for an exit over the summer after his goals failed to secure a top four finish for the Red Devils. Efforts to secure a move to a club in the Champions League fell short, but he has now joined Al-Nassr after leaving Old Trafford in November.
In January 2022, the Portugal international questioned the mentality at the club, making specific reference to the top three in the Premier League. While some expected a recovery to take longer under Erik ten Hag, the weekend’s results mean they go into Wednesday’s meeting with Leeds already sitting third in the table.
“Impossible – I think it’s the main point,” Ronaldo told Sky Sports in January 2022 when asked about United’s ability to close the gap to the top four. At the time, United sat seventh in the Premier League table, 11 points behind Liverpool in third and 22 adrift of leaders Manchester City.
“I don’t accept that our mentality be less than being in the top three in the Premier League. I think to build up good things, sometimes you have to destroy a few things.
“So why not – new year, new life and I hope that Manchester (United) can be the level that the fans want. They deserve that.”
United ended the season in sixth, something which Ronaldo said at the time he was not prepared to settle for. “I don’t want to be here to be in sixth place, or seventh place, or fifth place. I’m here to try to win, to compete,” he said.
Cristiano Ronaldo made his feelings clear in 2022 ( Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Ronaldo’s then-colleague Scott McTominay echoed the comments in February after dropped points against Burnley saw United miss a chance to cement a top-four challenge. A year on, though, personnel changes have played their part in a recovery under Ten Hag.
“It’s been a difficult situation this year,” the Scotland midfielder told BT Sport while suggesting a top four finish and no additional trophies wouldn’t be enough. “You have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes and get on with it and keep pushing every single game.
Companies Are Focusing On DX – Here’s WhyFUJITSUby TaboolaSponsored Links
“To answer your question [about a top four finish with no silverware], no definitely not. It’s true, the lads always speak about it, we’ve got to keep going to change that.”
Erik ten Hag has led Man Utd into the Carabao Cup final ( Image: PA)
On top of the lofty league position, United are one game away from their first silverware since 2017. They came close in 2021 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, losing to Villarreal in the Europa League final, and will now face Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
“It’s good to reach the final, of course, but it’s not about reaching the final,” manager Ten Hag said. “It’s about winning it. It’s going to be tough, because we face a great opponent in Newcastle.
“It has to be a huge motivation to us in the first place and we obviously want to bring that cup home to the fans,” the former Ajax boss added. United also remain in contention in the FA Cup and Europa League, with games against West Ham and Barcelona on the horizon, as they look to demonstrate the change in mentality can also bring the desired results.