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Premier League: Cristiano Ronaldo departs Manchester United

After a week of speculation, Manchester United have confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo has left the club.

The forward has struggled for game time this season and recently gave a controversial interview where he criticised the Red Devils' hierarchy, including head coach Erik ten Hag.

Both parties have now decided to part ways, with his last appearance coming in the 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa on 6th November. He found the net just three times for United this season and departs with them sat fifth in the Premier League table and 5/4 To Finish in Top 4.

The forward leaves by mutual consent, stating that he still loves the club and its fans but that it is the "right time" to depart.

Trophy-laden career

Ronaldo first joined United in the summer of 2003, signing from Sporting Lisbon after shining against Sir Alex Ferguson's men in a pre-season friendly.

After six trophy-laden seasons, which included a Champions League win and three Premier League crowns in his 292 appearances, the Portuguese superstar signed for Real Madrid for a then-world-record fee of £80m.

Things got even better for him at the Bernabeu, winning two La Liga titles and four Champions League winner's medals. In total, he netted an incredible 450 goals in 438 appearances before swapping Madrid for Turin in 2018.

More success followed at Juventus but there were signs in Italy that the five-time Ballon d'Or winning star was starting to lose some of his sparkle.

Fast start on Old Trafford return peters out

A Premier League return beckoned in the summer of 2021, with Manchester City seemingly in pole position for his signature.

However, the United hierarchy could not sit on their hands and watch their great rivals snare one of their greatest-ever players, swooping in to re-sign him instead for £12.9m plus a further £6.9m in potential add-ons.

Scoring a hat-trick on his second debut, a 5-1 win over Leeds, prompted hopes the Portugal captain could be the missing ingredient as the Red Devils aimed to chase down City and Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remained loyal to his star, who kept scoring but struggled to adapt to the Norwegian's desired pressing style, an issue accentuated when Ralf Rangnick replaced him.

With Ten Hag keen for his team to press from the front, Ronaldo's opportunities became limited, leading to reports of unrest between the forward and his Dutch coach.

After last week's bombshell interview, a January departure appeared inevitable and the club have now confirmed he has been released from his contract.

What next for Cristiano Ronaldo?

Despite being 37, Ronaldo remains a threat in front of goal and has hinted that he intends to play until he is 40 and maybe even beyond.

Part of his unrest at Old Trafford was down to not being able to play Champions League football. So, will this be the key to deciding on his next move?

That would rule out a storybook return to Sporting, who were one of the victims of a dramatic matchday six, meaning they will have to settle for Europa League football after Christmas.

A Gareth Bale-style move to the MLS has also been talked about, while there will surely be one or two top teams ready to take a chance on him, even if it is only for the next six months.

Chelsea would fit that bracket, while a move to another European league, where his workload could be managed, may also attract both CR7 and his potential suitors.

Ronaldo's focus now on the World Cup

The small matter of the World Cup has almost been lost amidst the furore of the last few days. Ronaldo is currently away with his country preparing for his fifth, and possibly final appearance, at the tournament.

Portugal are 14/1 in the To Win Outright market, with the Selecao aiming to improve their recent World Cup record, having not made it past the last 16 since finishing fourth in Germany in 2006.

Ronaldo will surely be at the heart of their plans and is 14/1 to finish the tournament as Top Goalscorer and will be desperate to improve on a mixed record at the competition. The 37-year-old has netted, for him at least, a relatively meagre seven goals in 17 World Cup games, and is 1/1 to be the Top Team Goalscorer for Portugal.

First up for Fernando Santos' men is Thursday's game against Group H rivals Ghana at Doha's Stadium 974 where they are 2/5 to win.

While a player of Ronaldo's stature is hardly playing for his future, it would be no surprise to see him shine again as he looks to the next chapter in his fabulous career.

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