Cristiano Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mates Roy Keane and Gary Neville got into a heated debate yesterday. It’s must-watch television.
The duo were working as pundits on Sky Sports’ coverage of United’s 1-1 draw away to Chelsea yesterday.
Ronaldo had been dropped by Erik ten Hag after refusing to come on as a substitute during the midweek 2-0 victory over Tottenham. The 37-year-old left Old Trafford early and has been punished for his actions.
Keane, somewhat surprisingly, took a sympathetic response to Ronaldo. He feels that the Portugal international should have a bigger role to play in Ten Hag’s first-team plans.
Here’s how the debate started:
Gary Neville: “For me, Erik ten Hag had no choice, no option. Cristiano’s left the ground twice and you can’t do that. His Instagram post 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,” said Neville.
“It’s a messy end and Ten Hag is trying to establish control. I always think about the fact Ronaldo has played hundreds of games where players have had to watch him. You have to make sure you’re in the changing room, shaking players’ hands and 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 career is like a mountain; you’re in for a few games, out the team, get back in, and then you get to the top of the mountain, and 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.
“Cristiano is going to have to go 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.”
Roy Keane: “Gary, there are 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’s a 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, but he’ll find his way back. Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test – he got banned for eight months. Cantona…”
Neville: “Cantona was banned for six months.”
Keane: “Whose fault is that? The club’s fault or the team-mates’?”
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. 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 Ronaldo. 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 XI.”
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 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 and 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.”
The heated debate continued from there. Watch it in full below: