Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo said he was close to signing for bitter rivals Manchester City last year but former manager Alex Ferguson asked him not to.
Ronaldo said Ferguson persuaded him to re-join United for a second spell at Old Trafford when he moved from Juventus in August, 2021 on a two-year deal, returning to the club where he won eight major trophies from 2003-2009.
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“Well, honestly, it was close… It’s something they spoke [about] a lot and [Manchester City manager Pep] Guardiola said two weeks ago, I guess, that they tried hard to have me,” Ronaldo told Piers Morgan in an interview for TalkTV, the first part of which was aired on Wednesday.
“But as you know, as my history [was] in Manchester United, your heart, your feeling… make the difference. And of course, as well, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“I was surprised… But it was a conscious decision. Because the heart speaks, speaking loud in that moment.”
He added that Ferguson’s intervention helped him make up his mind to join United.
“I think it was the key. It was the difference in that moment, but I cannot be loyal if I will, I wouldn’t say that Manchester City wasn’t close,” Ronaldo said.
“I spoke with him [Ferguson]… He said to me that, ‘It’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City’.
“And I say, ‘OK, Boss’. So I took the decisions and… it was a good decision.”
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In an excerpt of the interview published on Sunday, Ronaldo said that United had betrayed him and alleged he was being forced out of the club.
The Portugal forward also said United did not support him when his daughter was taken to hospital in July, doubting him and showing a lack of empathy when he did not arrive on time for pre-season training.
United said on Monday that they would address Ronaldo’s comments that he felt betrayed by the club and was being forced out only after establishing the full facts.
Co-chairman Joel Glazer, football director John Murtough, chief executive Richard Arnold and manager Erik ten Hag held a meeting on Monday while United have also sought legal advice about how best to solve the issue.
Ten Hag, according to ESPN sources, believes he cannot work with Ronaldo again after the striker said that he “doesn’t respect” the Dutchman, and has communicated that view to the Glazers, Arnold and Murtough.
Sources have also told ESPN that the majority of the squad do not believe there is a way back for Ronaldo particularly because Ten Hag has taken such a hardline on squad discipline since taking over as a manager in the summer.
Information from ESPN’s Rob Dawson was used in this report.