Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final say

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Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo
Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final say

Cristiano Ronaldo's fairytale return to Manchester United was something of a whirlwind in the end with him rejoining amid huge fanfare, hitting the ground running, positively influencing things behind the scenes... and then having his contract unceremoniously terminated after publicly accusing the club of betraying him.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has now put pen to paper on a £173million per season deal with Saudia Arabian outfit Al-Nassr and on Tuesday night claimed he is "really, really happy" to be playing in such a competitive league.

It's an underwhelming end for such a talented and ambitious footballer who told Jonathan Ross back in 2015: "In my mind, I want to finish at the top level. I want to finish with dignity in a good club. "That doesn't mean going to the USA, Qatar, or Dubai is not good. But, I do not see myself [there]."

Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final say rridqziqtqitinvLisandro Martinez's comments on Cristiano Ronaldo showed how much had changed (MUTV/YouTube)

And it seems it could have been avoided, with even Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes instructing him to knuckle down at United and win back his place in the first team instead of looking for a move elsewhere, but the 37-year-old took matters into his own hands.

During Ronaldo's first season at United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer things were looking up, and his incredible influence was there for everyone to see.

Marcel Sabitzer completes Man Utd transfer after last-minute deadline day dashMarcel Sabitzer completes Man Utd transfer after last-minute deadline day dash

Former Red Devils keeper Lee Grant even spoke about how players were talking about the positive changes Ronaldo had brought and were beginning to follow his lead.

Grant told Talksport in 2021: "To give you one instance of the impact he is having on the group, this was Friday night in the hotel.

"So, as you guys will be aware, you finish your dinner and usually on a Friday night you've got some cheat stuff out. You've got some apple crumble and custard or you've got a bit of brownie and cream.

Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final sayCristiano Ronaldo's interview with Piers Morgan effectively ended his career at Man United (@piersmorgan/Twitter)

"I tell you now, not one player touched the apple crumble and custard, not one player went up for that brownie because everybody was sat down.

"One of the lads said to me, 'What has Cristiano got on his plate?' Obviously, it is the cleanest, most healthy plate you can imagine."

After Solskjaer was sacked by United, the Red Devils made the strange decision to hire Ralf Rangnick as head coach before sending him upstairs to work a consultancy role.

The less said about the plan the better as United's form slumped and Rangnick was replaced by Erik ten Hag, who didn't even want the Austrian as a consultant.

During this period, Ronaldo became increasingly disillusioned by what he was seeing at Old Trafford, something he brought up in his now-infamous interview with Piers Morgan.

"I don't know what's going on but since Sir Alex Ferguson left [in 2013], I saw no evolution in the club. The progress was zero," Ronaldo told Morgan.

"For example, how the club, after Manchester United had to sack Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer], they bring in sporting director Ralf Rangnick, which is something nobody understood.

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"This guy is not even a coach. A big club like Manchester United bring in a sporting director? It surprised not only me but all the world."

Ronaldo spent that summer - the one in which United replaced Rangnick with Ten Hag - trying to orchestrate a move away from Old Trafford, against the advice of his agent.

Meanwhile, as the season got underway, Ten Hag quickly learnt the size of the project he'd taken on and after defeats by Brighton and Brentford discovered that Ronaldo no longer featured in the team best equipped to get him out of a hole.

Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final sayThings started well for Cristiano Ronaldo under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man United

This news hit the Portugal international like a tonne of bricks and set in motion a series of events that ultimately led to the Morgan interview and Ronaldo's contract termination.

One of the most memorable incidents followed United's 2-0 win over Tottenham in October when Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel before the end of the game.

The forward was named as a substitute for the match but effectively made himself unavailable for selection by heading to the dressing room.

Ronaldo then left the stadium by himself as his teammates celebrated the victory on the pitch and later in the changing room.

New United signing Lisandro Martinez, who embodies the new spirit at Old Trafford, was asked to comment on Ronaldo's strop and exit in the immediate aftermath.

Man Utd stars spoke behind Ronaldo's back but Lisandro Martinez had final sayCristiano Ronaldo was never a fan of Ralf Rangnick

He gave a typically measured response but in doing so provided a unique insight into the situation with Ronaldo.

"I didn't see anything," explained the centre-back. "I don't know. I only enjoy with the people, we won, and that's important."

Innocuous at first glance, Martinez's comments showed that Ronaldo no longer had any influence on the United team - players didn't even realise the best-paid individual at the club who has won five Champions Leagues wasn't there.

On reflection, his comments illustrated just how much changed for Ronaldo in such a short space of time, with the forward once inspiring an entire canteen of footballers to copy his food selection to no longer being recognised as a part of the club's success.

Jake Polden

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