Manchester United are edging closer to Cristiano Ronaldo exit after Wolves defeat

Manchester United v Wolves: Match in pictures

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When Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United, he did so because he wanted to win again. He made it abundantly clear he felt he was the man to drag the club out of the dark ages, to where they used to be. However, after Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Wolves, it’s now likelier he’ll leave the club at the end of the season instead.

When United signed Ronaldo, they’d won two of their first three Premier League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Clearly, even if performances were unconvincing, some progress was being made. Especially after finishing second to Manchester City last term.

Yet here we are, mere months on, and Ronaldo’s second coming isn’t working out.

He’s done his part. He’s scored 14 goals across all competitions and, with Harry Maguire out injured, was made captain for the match with Wolves.

It’s clear Ralf Rangnick values the 36-year-old. Given his records, and his stunning goalscoring ability, who wouldn’t?

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But this isn’t why Ronaldo came back. Wolves, on Monday night, hammered home yet again just how far this club have fallen.

He is partly responsible, of course he is. Just because he’s won the lot doesn’t make him immune from criticism, from the media, pundits or other footballers alike.

Yet there’s a sense, now, that Ronaldo will only be back for a year before packing his bags and leaving again.

United’s defeat to Wolves means they now face a huge fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Certainly, the chance to jump above Arsenal has gone for the time being.

And if United find themselves playing in the Europa League next term, don’t expect their No 7 to stay around.

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Ronaldo didn’t come back to be playing European minnows every few weeks. Instead, it was because he felt he could genuinely propel this team to the promised land.

Now, it seems as though that won’t happen.

United were lucky to be playing Wolves on Monday. If it was Atletico Madrid, their next Champions League opponents, they’d have likely been subject to a mauling.

The Red Devils are getting worse. It’s unusual to say, especially with Solskjaer no longer at the helm, but they’re regressing again.

Matches against teams like Wolves, with all due respect, used to be formalities. These days, they’re anything but.

United couldn’t even keep Ronaldo when they were winning titles, such was his desire to go elsewhere and make his name even bigger.

So what gives them a chance of keeping him now?

Let’s break it down. If he stays, he could be playing in the Europa League. He’d also be a whole year older, arguably a whole year weaker.

There would be less time to get United firing again, especially with the twilight years of his career on the horizon.

If he goes, he’d arguably gain considerably more.

Ronaldo could choose to play in the MLS, a new league and a new adventure where he can take the United States by storm.

He’d still likely get a big pay picket, as one of the biggest players in football history.

And he’d get a chance to grow his brand to an even higher level, as if being the world’s most-followed athlete wasn’t enough.

When Ronaldo came back, it was to write more history.

Yet the reality is United are a completely different club to the one he left behind. And the more results worsen, the more the possibility of the veteran jumping ship grows in likelihood. 

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