Cristiano Ronaldo's harsh new reality

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Cristiano Ronaldo didn't get his wish and leave Manchester United this summer, and while that could change in January, things have gone rather poorly for the forward so far this campaign.

The 37-year-old was forced to play his first Europa League match since 2002 (with Sporting CP) on Thursday, and while he started against Real Sociedad, he looked far from his best.

Over the course of the 90 minutes Ronaldo mustered just four shots on target, barely won 38 percent of his duels and was caught offside on four occasions.

With no goals from his first seven games, only two of which he's started in, Erik ten Hag has been reluctant to put him in the starting XI.

Before Sociedad, Ronaldo's only other start came in the 4-0 debacle against Brentford.

With him on the bench, United reeled off four straight wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal.

"I can't keep every player happy in every game but everyone will have a chance to play if they work hard," said Ten Hag.

A warning to his squad that no place is guaranteed, not even for Ronaldo.

Nevertheless, it was Ten Hag who said Ronaldo was still part of his plans at the end of August.

Last season the Portuguese star scored 24 goals and was United's best player.

Now, he must regain that form and gain the manager's confidence if wants to be a firm fixture in the starting XI.

A summer of desperation

After leaving Turin at the last minute in 2021, there was almost a repeat of that in 2022.

With Manchester United not in the Champions League this season, Jorge Mendes did all that he could to find Ronaldo a new club.

Whether it was Spain (Atletico Madrid above all), Portugal (Sporting CP), Germany (Borussia Dortmund after Haller's cancer diagnosis or Bayern Munich after Lewandowski's sale), or Italy (AC Milan and Napoli in a swap for Osimhen), the attempts were endless.

Even Chelsea seemed like a possible landing spot, only for Thomas Tuchel to reject the idea.

That 'no' was repeated everywhere, whether due to a lack of funds, coaches saying no, or even directors.

The best example of the latter was at Bayern, where the Board of Directors nixed the move.

As a result, the Portuguese star will have to make due with the Europa League (at least for the time being).

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