Ronaldo lost Man United's dressing room due to his 'high standards'

Cristiano Ronaldo lost the Man United dressing room due to his ‘massively high standards’, reveals Mike Phelan as he opens up on the Portuguese legend’s fateful second spell at Old Trafford

  • Mike Phelan says Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Man United more ‘strong willed’ 
  • The Portugal icon had two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 times in 346 games
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s high standards may be part of what has made him an all-time great of the game, but according to Manchester United legend Mike Phelan, they also saw the forward ‘lose’ some of his Red Devils team-mates. 

The Portuguese icon had two spells at Old Trafford throughout his storied career, first signing from Sporting in 2003, spending six years under Sir Alex Ferguson before a move to Real Madrid. 

With Los Blancos the now-38-year-old rocketed to the forefront of the sport, winning five Ballon d’Or awards and four more Champions Leagues before departing for a new challenge at Juventus in 2018.

His return to the Premier League seemed inevitable, though, and by 2021 he was back at Old Trafford, and although he immediately hit the ground running in typical fashion, his move would sour, before an acrimonious departure in 2022.

His former coach Phelan, an iconic figure at the club, has opened up on how Ronaldo’s second spell unravelled around him in an interview with Sky Sports. 

Mike Phelan has opened up on how Cristiano Ronaldo’s second spell at Manchester United unravelled

The Portugal skipper left after a little over a year under acrimonious circumstances in 2022

Phelan claimed that Ronaldo’s ‘massively high standards’ saw him lose members of the dressing room

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‘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 United, 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.

‘When you deal with top, top people, it’s about them and where they can finish and where they can get to. They want to look back and go “wow, that was successful”. And he probably realised, and I don’t know as I never had that conversation with him, that he couldn’t do it at Manchester United. So his challenges were elsewhere.’

Ronaldo may have posted impressive numbers in his second spell, returning at the age of 36, with 27 goals in 54 games, but his exit undoubtedly went some way to tarnishing his legacy at the club. 

The Portugal skipper gave a tell-all interview with Piers Morgan ahead of the Qatar World Cup in which he opened up on his frustration. 

During the interview, he openly criticised the lack of ‘hunger’ in the younger players at the club in comparison to during his first stint at United, as well as claiming he felt betrayed by Erik ten Hag and several figures at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo’s first spell at the club saw him rise to prominence in world football as one of the best in the game

The player burnt several bridge at Old Trafford after an explosive interview with Piers Morgan

He later signed for Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr on a £175million-a-year deal 

Erik ten Hag was one of a number of figures at Manchester United to be singled out by Ronaldo

His position at the club ultimately became seemingly untenable, with a departure by mutual consent following before the end of 2022. 

Ronaldo then signed on for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, becoming the first big name to make the switch, penning a £175million-a-year deal at the Pro League outfit, where he has unsurprisingly impressed. 

‘He’s still playing international football, yes he’s in Saudi Arabia, but he’s still playing and scoring goals,’ Phelan added. ‘He is doing all the things we knew he could do at Manchester United.

‘But a really good personality, hard-working and challenging. He challenged me as a coach, Carlos Queiroz as a coach and Sir Alex as a manager. But that’s good because it takes you to another level.’


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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