Cristiano Ronaldo 'had a point' as ex-Man Utd coach gives verdict on star's dramatic exit

Ronaldo (Image: Getty)

Former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan has admitted that Cristiano Ronaldo made valid criticisms of the club in his explosive interview with Piers Morgan. Back in November 2022, the Portuguese icon was scathing in his assessment of the set-up at Old Trafford and manager Erik ten Hag, and never played another game for United before leaving for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

Phelan served as assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford from 2008 to 2013, helping oversee three Premier League title wins.

He returned to Manchester in December 2018 to become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s right-hand man, and when the Norwegian departed, he served on the coaching staff of interim boss Ralph Rangnick.

But after Ten Hag took over in the summer of 2022, there soon appeared tension between the new boss and Ronaldo, with the striker left on the bench for the early parts of the season.

During his exclusive talk with Morgan, the 39-year-old alleged that the club’s facilities hadn’t improved since his first stint with United, which culminated in an £80million move to Real Madrid in 2009.

And now speaking on talkSPORT, Phelan conceded that ‘CR7’ was correct in his assessment of some of the club’s flaws. “I do think he had a point,” Phelan said. “There were elements to the training ground that were tired, definitely.

“He’s a high maintenance player, massive standards, huge standards. And he obviously gained a lot of experiences at Manchester United, left, gained even more. Coming back, anybody would expect more. You want to move with the times.”

Mike Phelan was assistant to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when Ronaldo returned. (Image: Getty)

The initial return of the five-time Champions League winner was hailed by the club’s fans, and he scored 24 times in the 2021/22 campaign before things turned sour. However, Phelan still insisted his comeback had a positive effect on team-mates and supporters.

“When we brought him back, he should’ve seen the feelings around the place and the players,” he added. “Top, top players in that dressing room just wanted him around – they wanted him.

“It was an unbelievable decision to bring a world class player into that dressing room. And the supporters reacted to it hugely. The lift was remarkable. I just think his time with the club ran its course.”

Ronaldo has been a revelation in Saudi, scoring 64 times in 69 matches. And a portion of United fans have cited his words from two years ago after the club’s worst ever Premier League campaign.

Indeed, Ten Hag appeared on the verge of the sack before last weekend’s FA Cup final, where the Red Devils stunned Man City 2-1 at Wembley. The Dutchman’s position is still considered precarious though, with Ronaldo’s former boss at Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane, touted as one of the potential replacements.