Ex-Manchester United assistant reveals how ‘strong willed’ Ronaldo lost the dressing room in disastrous second spell

The former Red Devil had plenty to say on the matter

Former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan has claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo lost much of the Manchester United dressing room thanks to his high standards, which led to ‘frustration’ from both him and his teammates.

The veteran forward returned to Manchester United in the summer of 2022, after the Red Devils hijacked a reported deal from city-rivals Manchester City.

His first season began well even as United themselves struggled, with the Portuguese attacker finding the net on 24 occasions, including several crucial goals in the Champions League.

However, the arrival of Erik ten Hag saw Ronaldo slip out of favour, and after he claimed not to have any respect for the manager and took some astonishing shots at his own teammates in an unapproved interview with Piers Morgan, his contract with the club was terminated.

He has since moved to Al-Nassr, where he continues his career and has helped the Saudi league grow into one of the biggest spending competitions over the summer, recruiting former teammate Karim Benzema and compatriot Ruben Neves.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Mike Phelan (who was assistant manager through both of Ronaldo’s stints at Old Trafford) revealed what he thought was different about his return, and why ultimately, it didn’t work out.

“The second time round, he came in a lot older and a lot more opinionated, strong-willed,” Phelan said. “He still had massively high standards and was terrific to work with. But I’d probably say a tougher mindset. He had been at Man Utd, he had been Portugal’s ever-present, he had been at Madrid.

“I liked it because he didn’t want his standards to drop, he wanted other people’s standards to come up. And sometimes you lose a few people along the way when that happens. I remember certain times when he pushed and pushed hard, and he didn’t get much reaction or much response. And there was frustration.”

Standards have become something of a buzzword at Old Trafford in recent years, with Jadon Sancho the most recent victim of seemingly not meeting what his manager demands and currently out in the cold as a result.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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