Cristiano Ronaldo has said that Manchester United’s “nightmare” season will continue unless the squad’s mentality improves reports The Times.
In interviews with broadcasters, Ronaldo spoke of his dismay at seeing United fall to seventh in the Premier League and described Manchester City, the team he nearly joined in the summer, as the best in England.
The 36-year-old Portuguese, who revealed that he could carry on playing until he is 42, conceded that United’s performances have been below par recently but backed Ralf Rangnick, the interim manager, to turn things around.
Ronaldo believes that a drastic change in mindset is also required from the squad if they are to salvage their season.
“You should be proud of yourself and look in the mirror and say, ‘Listen, I give everything.’ I think all of us should do that, because it’s a new year, we change the page, we have many things to win and we have to believe in that. If not, it will be a nightmare,” Ronaldo told Sky Sports.
Ronaldo, who rejoined United from Juventus in August, won eight major trophies, including three Premier League titles, during his maiden six-year spell at United under Sir Alex Ferguson from 2003-09. Since the Scot retired in 2013, United have not come close to challenging for the title and Ronaldo clearly thinks standards have slipped.
“It is impossible [to win things without the right mentality],” he said. “When I talk to my friends about football, they all speak about systems.
“The system is useful, but not if the mentality is not there on the pitch. This is why we have a long way to improve because, for me, the most important thing is for you to look at yourself and say, ‘I can do better. I can help the team much more.’
“You have to be strong, to help the team with the right mentality, be self-taught and positive. I think all these details depend on you, not the coaches, the fans, the press, it depends on you.”
Ronaldo has no desire to leave United despite their predicament, insisting that he and his family are “happy” in Manchester. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has no intention of retiring any time soon either.
“I want to find out if I’m going to play until I’m 40, 41, or 42,” Ronaldo told ESPN Brazil. “Genetically I feel like I’m . . . I’m not going to say 25 because I’d be exaggerating, but around 30 years old.”
The five-time Champions League winner is ready to help the younger players, but only if they take on board what he is saying.
“If I give you advice if you don’t implant that during your daily life, it will be difficult,” he added.
“I remember, when I was 18, 19, 20, some older players spoke with me. I thought, ‘Cristiano, you have to improve — they know more than you, they are more experienced than you, they passed through many bad moments.’
“But other people, they don’t accept it if you criticise them. I don’t say this in relation to our players, but in general. I have kids, I know. Sometimes when you’re a little bit harder, they do the opposite, so you have to find the right balance to speak with them.”
Ronaldo said it was “sad and tough” to see his friend and former teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get the sack two months ago.
Ronaldo said that United’s past six performances under Solskjaer’s successor Rangnick had not been up to scratch, but refused to lay the blame at the feet of the interim manager.
“I believe he [Rangnick] is going to do a good job,” Ronaldo said. “He arrived five weeks ago, he changed many things but he needs time to put his ideas to the players.”
Since leaving Sporting Lisbon in 2003, there have been only two seasons in Ronaldo’s career in which he has not won a trophy, the last of which came 12 years ago with Real Madrid. The idea of drawing a blank this year clearly worries United’s star forward, who has scored 14 goals in 21 appearances since he returned to Old Trafford.
“I don’t want to be fighting for sixth or seventh place, or fifth,” he said. “United should win the league or be in second or third.
Ronaldo believes the club has set its sights too low and should be targeting a top-three place
“Right now with where we are, our ambition is to win one trophy, to go through in the Champions League and be at least in the top four. In my heart, I don’t accept that our mentality can be less than to be in the top three in the Premier League.”
When asked whether that message should be drilled into everybody in the squad, Ronaldo replied: “Of course. To build up a good thing sometimes you have to destroy a few things.”
City held talks with Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, about the possibility of signing him last summer, but United swooped for the former Real forward on the final day of the transfer window.
Ronaldo concedes that Pep Guardiola’s team, who are ten points clear at the top of the league and hold a 22-point lead over United, are the best in the country due to their ability to win week in, week out.
“To win the league, it’s a marathon, not a 100-metre sprint. You have to be consistent. This is why the best team, right now, in England, is Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. They are more consistent than the other teams.”