Juan Mata backs up what Cristiano Ronaldo was like at Man Utd after talk behind his back

Juan Mata has lifted the lid on how Cristiano Ronaldo was perceived at Man United (Image: Getty)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United may not have unfolded as many had hoped, yet his legendary status at Old Trafford never wavered.

Despite the turbulence that marked his 18-month comeback at the Theatre of Dreams, team-mates apparently held him in high esteem and often sang his praises behind his back. That’s despite many sections of the public court seemingly turning against the five-time Ballon d’Or-winner amid his struggles back in England.

Juan Mata, who shared the pitch with Ronaldo and won multiple trophies during his eight years with the Red Devils, has seemingly confirmed that sentiment. The ex-Chelsea and Valencia maestro recently reflected on the profound respect he and his colleagues had for Ronaldo, citing his high standards as a source of inspiration within the squad and revealing the close bond they shared.

Mata, who departed United in the summer of 2022, disclosed to Four Four Two (via the Mirror): “When United signed Cristiano, I thought we could win the Premier League again,” adding, “He had such high standards that he could drag the rest with him. I always thought that when it came to the 80th minute of a game, the ball had to go to him to win.

“He always appeared in decisive moments. However, circumstances around him prevented him from getting more quality minutes in his second season. I connected with Cristiano, during many conversations. He’s a much closer person than people imagine.”.

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Erik ten Hag fell out with Ronaldo prior to the latter’s 2022 exit (Image: Getty Images)

Ronaldo’s future at Old Trafford seemed uncertain shortly after Erik ten Hag took over in the summer of 2022. His contract with United was abruptly terminated in November 2022, leading him to join Al-Nassr and trigger a wave of top European players heading for the Saudi Pro League.

Despite this, 39-year-old Ronaldo remains a revered figure among Manchester’s players and fans. His impressive record of three Premier League titles and a Champions League victory with United in 2008, along with his stellar performances for Real Madrid and Portugal, ensure his status as a football legend.

However, some may argue his reputation has been somewhat tarnished due to his less-than-stellar return to Old Trafford. While few would have expected the second coming of Ronaldo to be as formidable as he was 12 years prior, the high expectations inevitably led to some level of disappointment.

Regardless of public opinion, however, Mata’s comments indicate Ronaldo never lost the respect of his fellow players in Manchester. They also provide an insight into how his much-anticipated comeback could have unfolded differently.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1907568/cristiano-ronaldo-man-utd-mata-ten-hag