Inside story of Cristiano Ronaldo's first day back at Man United

SIMON JONES: Cristiano Ronaldo FINALLY rejoined his Man United team-mates and sat in on Erik ten Hag’s tour debrief after crunch talks. He will remain professional but has his heart set on leaving

  • Cristiano Ronaldo swept back to Manchester United in a £168,000 Bentley on Tuesday morning having travelled by private jet from Madrid
  • He was accompanied by his trusted agent Jorge Mendes for crunch talks
  • Ever the professional, Ronaldo joined new signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez to debrief pre-season tour with Erik ten Hag
  • Sir Alex Ferguson was also in the building but for a pre-arranged board meeting 
  • 37-year-old wants Champions League football and United cannot offer it 
  • His escape routes are dwindling but deal with Atletico Madrid could be done

Cristiano Ronaldo was part of Manchester United’s tour de-brief on Tuesday after the club re-affirmed that the Portugal star is not for sale. 

The flash of photographers’ lightbulbs heralded his 10am arrival as Ronaldo rolled back into United’s Carrington training complex for showdown talks over his future, resplendent in his £168,000 blue Bentley.

Alongside him was his trusted agent Jorge Mendes who has been trying to engineer a move away to Atletico Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Carrington at 10am on Tuesday morning, accompanied by his agent Jorge Mendes in preparation for crunch talks with Man United boss Erik ten Hag

Ronaldo has missed all of the club’s pre-season so far after being given compassionate leave and did not travel with the rest of the squad to Thailand and Australia

Legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson also arrived at Carrington but it turned out to be for a pre-arranged board meeting with David Gill and Richard Arnold

The sense of occasion was amplified by the arrival of Sir Alex Ferguson almost an hour later but the club’s former manager was officially there for a pre-arranged board meeting with David Gill and chief executive officer Richard Arnold.

Carrington, of course, is not the accustomed venue for board meetings and many staff wondered whether their once great leader had arrived to play another hand in trying to convince Ronaldo to stay at his beloved club.

That though was left to Arnold and manager Erik ten Hag who has maintained that there is a place in his remodelled team for the 37-year-old who finished last season as United’s top goalscorer.

Ronaldo has always maintained he will be professional throughout and the proof of that came at 11.30 on Tuesday morning.

Then Ronaldo joined his teammates plus new signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez for over an hour as the manager and his staff debriefed what had gone on United’s tour of Thailand and Australia.

Ronaldo, 37, has been working to maintain his fitness but it remains far from clear whether he will be a Manchester United player for much longer

Ronaldo showed off his ripped physique in the gym as he missed United’s pre-season tour

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

Ronaldo had told United of his desire to leave last month. He has never played in the Europa League during his glittering career and had no desire to start now; his wish is to move to a team fit to challenge for the Champions League. His passion has been to finish at the top.

The timing of his request left many nonplussed and United’s stance has been he is not for sale and has a contract to fulfil.

Undeterred, Mendes has been courting Europe’s top clubs.

Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Napoli were among them but above flickers of interest and admiration there were no takers until Atletico Madrid, who United face next week, swayed a little.

They said they would consider it but only if the Portuguese superstar can be delivered on a cut-price salary and no fee.

New manager Erik ten Hag gave a debrief of the pre-season tour to Ronaldo on Tuesday

Ronaldo would have to play catch-up on the training ground to be ready for the new season

Ronaldo had been given compassionate leave for a family issue and United’s first team squad made do without him for the duration of their 17-day trip around Thailand and Australia.

They returned wearily on Sunday afternoon to be met with news that Ronaldo would be coming back. He flew in by private jet from Madrid at 9.30 on Monday evening and has underlined he will be professional – but still wants to go.

United insist publicly that he is not for sale and have dismissed the notion of extending his contract then sending him on loan as ‘nonsense’.

But Tuesday’s meeting with Mendes underlines that something will have to give.

The super agent has indicated he has been appeased by Arnold’s willingness to listen and will to find a common ground.

Ronaldo scored 24 times for United last season, including crucial ones in European games

However, professional or not, it is unlikely Ronaldo would be available for United’s opening game with Brighton.

Despite posting a picture of himself in the gym in Lisbon last weekend, it will be doubtful if he even makes a behind closed doors friendly against Wrexham on Wednesday. 

That platform is likely to be saved for new signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez who shared a ride into Carrington to underwhelming fanfare as a mere sideshow to the main event.

Ten Hag is also unlikely to bring him straight back into the team after Anthony Martial earned the right to lead the attack by scoring three goals in four friendly games.

Anthony Martial has impressed in the centre forward position during the pre-season tour

Ten Hag said he spoke to Ronaldo before the tour, explaining: ‘I had a good talk. That is between Cristiano and me. What I can confirm is we had a really good conversation together.’ 

The words that come next will be the most important but Ronaldo’s presence at the team’s de-briefing offers some hope of peace.

Ten Hag has already made it clear that he needs another forward, even with Ronaldo, as United pursue a deal for Brazil winger Antony who is valued at £68million by Ajax. Such a purchase is not so straight forward, just ask Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong.

United have had too many sagas already to endure this summer and do not need another.

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