Sky Sports pundits Roy Keane and Gary Neville clashed on Saturday night over Cristiano Ronaldo’s current situation at Man Utd.
The Portugal international attempted to leave the club in the summer transfer window but a lack of interest in his services saw him stay at Old Trafford.
However, Ronaldo hasn’t looked on top form this campaign after playing just 45 minutes in the whole of pre-season.
New Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag has only started him on two occasions in the Premier League with the majority of his starts coming in the Europa League.
Ronaldo caused a stir in midweek when he refused to come off the bench against Tottenham before leaving the stadium early.
And Neville and Keane were involved in a heated debate on Saturday night on Sky Sports, with the former insisting Ten Hag has handled the Ronaldo situation “really well” and the latter claiming the 37-year-old should be unhappy at not playing.
As usual, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink found himself in the middle of the pair and managed to drop in a word or two where possible.
Neville: “For me, Erik ten Hag had no choice, no option. Cristiano’s left the ground twice, you can’t do that, his Instagram post which said I respect my teammates and sometimes in the heat of the moment you do something wrong. On the eve of pre-season, he asked for a transfer, he’s building up a list of things. It’s a messy end and Ten Hag is trying to establish control.
“I always think about the fact, Ronaldo has played 100s of games where players have had to watch him, you have to make sure you’re in the changing room, shaking players’ hands then you have it out with the manager separately. It’s not about Erik ten Hag. He had no other choice but the players in the dressing room had to have some action against them.
“Lots of players have watched him, now he’s had to watch them, your careers like a mountain, you’re in for a few games, out the team, get in then you get to the top of the mountain then you have to accept whether you play for a big club and accept less games. Or you go to a lesser club and play all the time and Cristiano is going to have to go to somewhere else that’s going to play him every week because he can’t accept being on the bench. That’s fine.
“End it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup, it’s not doing him any favours. Leaving the dressing room before full-time, that’s not what he does, if you’re doing things like that you’ve got to leave.”
Keane: “Gary, there’s players at Man United who have done a lot worse than what he’s done?”
Neville: “In this current moment?”
Keane: “Where do you want me to get started? Scholesy, great lad… let me finish. Scholesy refused to play at Man United.”
Neville: “I know he did.”
Keane: “We said nothing to him.”
Neville: “He was fined two weeks wages.”
Keane: “Ronaldo will be fined for this, he’ll find his way back. Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test, he got banned for eight months. Cantona…”
Neville: “He was banned for six months.”
Keane: “Yeah, who’s fault is that? The clubs fault or the teammates?”
Neville: “Do you not think Cristiano Ronaldo should be punished this week?”
Keane: “Dead right. You’re saying he can’t deal with being sub. He was top goalscorer.”
Neville: “He can’t.”
Hasselbaink: “He’s right, he can’t be dealing with being a sub.”
Keane: “They played Man City a few weeks ago and it could’ve been 16. The manager says I’m not bringing him on because he didn’t want to disrespect. He goes to Everton a week later, comes on, scores a goal. Starts against Newcastle …”
Neville: “Roy, there’s not many Manchester United fans who would have Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting 11.”
Keane: “I couldn’t care less what fans think, I couldn’t care less, a lot of the fans haven’t got a clue what’s going on.”
Neville: “They [Manchester United] score more goals without him and they get more points without him. That’s a fact. He’s coming to the end of his career, Manchester United are a better team without him, he’s just got to get used to it or leave.”
Keane: “That’s fine. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly which he obviously thinks, there’s arguments for and against.”
Hasselbaink: “Do you think he’s been treated unfairly?”
Keane: “I think he probably feels that.”
Neville: “I heard you before the game, your mentality is a unique mentality. Your fiercely competitive, you have to play, what you’ve done in your careers. Normal folk, normal players, that’s not what you do leave the changing room and going off the pitch.”
Keane: “You keep talking about Man United being better without Ronaldo, let’s look at the start of the season when he was in a bob (sic), he didn’t play against Man City.”
Neville: “Do you not think they’re better without him? Come on.”
Keane: “In the starting 11? No, I wouldn’t say that.”
Hasselbaink: “I don’t think they can carry him. They can’t carry him.”
Neville: “I think they’re better without him.”
Keane: “Would you hang your hat on Martial or even Rashford or Ronaldo? Ronaldo came to Man United when he was 17, we loved him, we loved him everything about him because he wanted to be the best. Simple as that.
“He had his critics then because he was going over quickly, end product, but what I love about Ronaldo now, he’s 37, he’s had enough, he snapped, he’s 37 and still wants to be the best in the world and that’s why I admire him. We sit here week in, week out and we praise bad players.”
Neville: “Roy Keane the manager would deal with it. Roy Keane the manager would have to deal with him.”
Keane: “There’s players at Manchester United, Antony, went on strike at Ajax to come to Manchester United. Ten Hag the manager, it’s all about the spirit, the group.”
Neville: “[But] Ten Hag’s not criticised him, he’s handled it well. He’s been calm with it. Ten Hag’s not come out, stitched him up and said he’s out of order. He said I’ve spoken about Cristiano enough.”
Keane: “He’s talking about the spirit after the game, do you not think he’s speaking to Ronaldo? Ten Hag left Ajax to come to Man United, he should be competing for league titles.”
Neville: “He walked off against Everton after being left out by Ole in one of his first games, shaking his head at the end of the game. He was doing that with the body language to Rashford, he knows what he’s doing. He’s experienced and players of that power have a real negative impact when they do it.”
Keane: “They all do it. I’d be worried if he was happy to be taken off.”
Neville: “The influence they have on other players is really negative, they’re in an influential position. I love him to bits but you can’t defend him leaving the ground twice.”
Keane: “I’m not saying that… and there was other players who left. They will get punished, we were with players who did it and got punished it’s a mistake of course. But he gives you something back, we sit here every week praising bad players.”
Hasselbaink: “He does not give enough back at the moment. He doesn’t.”
Keane: “He scores a goal every two games!”
Hasselbaink: “He doesn’t.”
Keane: “He does. Do you want the stats? He scores a goal every two games!”
Hasselbaink: “They lose games with him, they can’t carry him.”
Keane: “They lost at Man City, they lost at Brighton, Brentford, they’re all celebrating like they’ve won the league – they’re fifth in the league.”
Neville: “Did you see the comments from Bonucci and Chiellini? They’re two great pros.”
Keane: “Who said they’re great pros? Have you been in the dressing room with them?”
Neville: “Roy.. they’ve been top players for 20 years who’ve won lots of trophies. The same things happened at Manchester United, we know him, we love him but he can’t accept being the star man. He’s going to have to leave, that’s it, that’s all it is.”
Keane: “He should’ve left in August and hopefully in January.”
Neville: “I hope he leaves next week!”
Keane: “He can’t leave next week, can he?”
Neville: “He can say to the club, thank you very much and find a new club because I’d like to see him score goals until he’s 42, scoring a thousand goals.”
Keane: “If he’s doing the business, which he was doing in a bad Manchester United team, he missed pre-season – not matter what player you are that has a huge impact – Ronaldo won’t play every game of course he’s not.”
Hasselbaink: “He won’t settle for that – and I’m a big Ronaldo lover.”
Keane: “What I’d say about Ten Hag is he’s made a lot of decisions, he’s got to win football matches but he’s not winning enough of them, they’re fifth in the league. They beat Tottenham and they’re acting like they’ve won the European Cup. They beat Spurs last season, Ronaldo got a hat-trick, if you’ve got a striker who’s scoring every two games, you’ll do for me.”
Neville: “Scoring goals, I know it sounds crazy it’s the most important thing. But you can be a better team without just goal scorers it’s happened time and time again. Sometimes you can have two players up front, Mark Hughes wasn’t the greatest goalscorer in the world but you’re better if you’ve got someone to play off. Cristiano’s just become a natural goalscorer, Erik ten Hag doesn’t want that.”
Keane: “He certainly feels what’s gone on, he’s been unfairly treated. If you feel that as a senior pro there’s a justified anger, you’re going to react that way but he’s got flaws like we all have.”
Hasselbaink: “He can’t react that way, it’s unforgivable.”
Neville: “You’ve got a choice to make at the end of your career if you’ve been a great player, which he has, do you accept coming out of the team playing 25 games a season or do you have 40 games a season that aren’t that good? That’s what every player that are great have to decide. He won’t settle for 25 games a season, his mentality is I have to play every minute and it’s good.”
Keane: “He deserves more than 25 games a season. What people are that [the message coming out of the club on Ronaldo]? The people on the payroll? The Media lads?
“You spot them a mile away, the PR machine from Man United the last couple of days Ronaldo didn’t want come on, he didn’t want to come on in the 87th, 88th minute, “I deserve better”, 2-0 up after 70 minutes, give him 15 minutes then do you know what the problem might be? He might score. Then the manager has got a real headache. He scored an important goal against Everton that’s not six months ago, it’s two or three months ago.”
Neville: “Roy, are you suggesting, I don’t think it’s the case, but are you suggesting that Ten Hag has a personal vendetta against Ronaldo? Because I don’t think that’s the case.”
Keane: “I don’t see it that way but I can understand why Ronaldo’s reacting the way he has. We’ve seen top players react that way. [It] Should’ve ended in August.”
Neville: “What’s important to Cristiano is he wants to keep scoring at the highest level. Goals are everything to him, playing for his team is everything to him, he wants to play in the Champions League because that record he has, he’s 10 to 12 ahead of Messi, that’s so important to him. That battle that they’ve had for all those years, he’s not going to give it up easily, he wants to go to a team in the Champions League, he’s on a lot of money, £400,000 (per-week), £500,000-per week…”
Keane: “He’s a billionaire, Gary, he doesn’t care about money.”
Neville: “He has to accept less money to go to a Champions League club and play or he has to go play for a non-Champions League football. Some were saying he was offered £130m to play in Saudi Arabia – he’s not going to do that. Sporting Lisbon were mentioned or a Portuguese club.”
Hasselbaink: “I can’t see that happening even in Portugal.”
Keane: “The fact he still wants to do that is fantastic. We go to games every week and we watch some bad games, we praise bad players. We watch players who are finished at 32, 33, they take a big pay packet to the States, China, wherever, or they retire. This guy wants to keep on playing. I’m not giving him a thumbs up for his behaviour, far from it.”
Neville: “Is that not what the problem is here? We’re all here thumbsing (sic) him up for his good attitude, but what we’re saying is he stormed off to the car park, suspended and fined two weeks wages. So what?”
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Keane: “So what? So what’s the big deal?”
Neville: “So what? Don’t finish. Forget the promos.”
Keane: “If Ronaldo played most of the games, he’d still be the leading goalscorer.”
Neville: “Do you think Manchester United will be better and win more points as a team?”
Neville: “I don’t think so.”
Keane: “You asked me a question and I said I think so.”
Hasselbaink: “I don’t think so.”