Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to training following his banishment from Manchester United, but the forward appears set to leave Old Trafford in the January transfer window. According to rumors in the United States, he could join Major League Soccer [MLS].
Ronaldo has struggled to accept the minor position assigned to him by United manager Erik ten Hag, and the Portuguese had to watch Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea from home after being expelled for his latest outburst.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was penalized for refusing to come on as a substitute, marching down the tunnel and leaving the stadium before the end of United’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on October 19, taking the luster off what was undoubtedly the best performance of the Ten Hag era so far.
It was the second time the former Real Madrid and Juventus star had been substituted midway through a pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano since Ten Hag’s arrival, and this time the manager was harsh with his punishment.
“”Sometimes the heat of the moment gets the best of us,” Ronaldo remarked in a statement following the incident, adding, “This is Manchester United, and we must remain united.” We’ll be back together soon.”
Ronaldo has only scored twice in 12 games for Manchester United this season, falling far short of his normally high standards. When he returned to United in 2021, he was the top scorer in all competitions, with 24 goals. However, Ten Hag’s hiring generated concerns that the elderly striker would be unable to execute the Dutchman’s high-intensity style, and this has shown to be the case, with the Red Devils’ finest performances coming when Ronaldo was not starting, no doubt denting the 835-goal striker’s ego.
Ronaldo returned to training with his teammates on Tuesday and is expected to play against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League on Thursday, but it appears that his second spell with United, which he joined from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 and won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during a glorious spell under Sir Alex Ferguson, is coming to an end.
Ronaldo wanted out of Old Trafford before the season began after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League, and he missed the club’s pre-season tour due to personal reasons, but his agent Jorge Mendes was unable to broker a move to another European club.
His only option was a nine-figure offer from Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal, and clubs in the Middle East could be back in for Ronaldo in January, though the 37-year-old would likely prefer a move to a Champions League club in Europe, with suggestions that he would be willing to take a pay cut to make it happen.
If he is turned down again by Europe’s elite clubs, a move to Major League Soccer may be appealing. With Italian players Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi joining Toronto FC in the summer, as well as Barcelona product Riqui Puig, who starred for LA Galaxy this season, the league’s caliber is gradually increasing.
Inter Miami, led by Ronaldo’s old United teammate Phil Neville, is thought to be interested in signing Ronaldo, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner may have two more alternatives in MLS.
According to the LA Times, the LA Galaxy and LAFC are in the running to offer Ronaldo a way out of United.
It may require some juggling for the Galaxy. Former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, Brazil international Douglas Costa, and French attacker Kevin Cabral occupy their three designated player seats, which are reserved for superstar players whose wages would otherwise exceed the salary cap.
Greg Vanney’s team has also been heavily linked with a January deal for former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez from Uruguayan club Nacional, and the Galaxy have not dismissed those rumors.
This could indicate that their cross-town rivals are better positioned to fight for Ronaldo’s services. They, too, have filled their three designated player positions, with former Barcelona winger Cristian Tello, ex-Arsenal winger Carlos Vela, and striker Denis Bouanga filling them.
However, a new TV agreement with Apple TV+ has injected more revenue into MLS, allowing players like Insigne to earn a good living in the United States, while LAFC is rumored to be interested in bringing Ronaldo to Southern California.