Fri, 19 Aug 2022

The Portuguese icon returned to action against Rayo Vallecano

Cristiano Ronaldo made his return for Manchester United and debut under new coach Erik ten Hag on Sunday, but didn't stay until the end of the 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is currently the subject of a self-manufactured transfer saga after telling the club he wants to leave to play Champions League football and that they should listen to reasonable offers for him.

Offers reportedly haven't been forthcoming so far, however, with the likes of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid allegedly turning down Ronaldo and agent Jorge Mendes' advances.

Ronaldo didn't turn up for preseason training and a tour of Thailand and Asia while citing family reasons.

But with United now back on English shores, Ronaldo announced his return by replying to an Instagram post and stating: "On Sunday the king plays."

As United played another game against Atletico Madrid in Oslo on Saturday, which they lost 1-0 to Diego Simeone's men, Ten Hag fielded a first XI full of second-string stars against Vallecano but handed starts to new signings Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen plus Ronaldo. 

Ronaldo's first impact on the action was a pass to the Danish international as part of a promising move, but he also missed an easy chance. 

Ronaldo was brought off at half time and replaced by Amad Diallo, who netted United's opener on 48 minutes which was canceled out by Alvaro Rivera's equalizer approaching the hour mark. 

While it is unclear if he was given permission to do so, with United thus far not offering any clarification on the matter, Ronaldo was later photographed leaving Old Trafford before the full-time whistle as was compatriot Diogo Dalot.

Though Dalot was chosen for the Atletico game and not the Rayo match, all those that featured in Oslo were requested to attend Sunday's friendly and it is also unknown whether Ten Hag gave the defender his blessing to head off prematurely. 

Ten Hag did not have a post-game press conference scheduled for after the match to be broached on the premature exit, nor an exchange between him and his number '7' during a break where Ronaldo seemed to be unimpressed by Ten Hag explaining tactics to him as the player shrugged his shoulders.

United fans were divided on Ronaldo leaving early, with one saying that the act showed "exactly why he's got to go".

"I don't care if you disagree with me. We can't have players who think they're bigger than the club," it was added.

"Why is everyone slandering Ronaldo for leaving the stadium before the final whistle? On Sunday the king spends [a] holiday on and off the field," was another more light-hearted remark. 

Mocking his "on Sunday the king plays" remark, a popular Twitter account shared Ronaldo's limp heat map compared to that of generational rival Lionel Messi who ran rampant all over the pitch as he helped PSG beat Nantes 4-0 in the Trophee des Champions on the same day.

"The King is gone" declared a separate party.

Defending his corner, however, a United channel presented asked: "Anyone stop to think Ronaldo leaving early may have been agreed with Ten Hag and is part of his recovery program to go and get an Ice bath or something?

"Some people just want to believe the worst," he concluded.

"Stop defending him," a user then ordered in the replies section. "Even the Ronaldo fanboys have had enough."

"The guy has been dealing with family issues all summer," noted a different post.

"I think after being our best player last season, and literally playing a week after the death of his baby, that he's earnt the right to leave the stadium early."

"If it came out next week that a family member has passed away or something, all these people calling Ronaldo disrespectful will be the first to wish him the best as if they haven't been on him all summer.

"Give the guy a break. He's the only reason we finished above 10th last year," it was further stressed.

On the same platform, however, Ronaldo uploaded a photo of himself in action and said he was "happy to be back".

To MUTV, Ten Hag also said he was happy with a strong preseason campaign. 

"We [have made] good progress and we're ready for the season but still I know there is a lot of room for improvement and we have to improve," the Dutchman conceded.

On his first match at Old Trafford, Ten Hag lauded a "fantastic" reception and said he "felt the vibe" in the iconic ground. 

"I felt the vibe they want to send to the team. There has to be co-operation between fans and the team so we get the right emotion and, especially, the right results," he explained.

With Ronaldo likely to be in the squad, the Red Devils get their Premier League campaign off to a start at home against Brighton on Sunday. 

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