Manchester United have appeared to have forgotten a crucial piece of advice from former boss Sir Alex Ferguson over Cristiano Ronaldo, which may undermine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
It is in relation to the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has become the best paid individual at the club and now hands a level of adoration above anyone else at Old Trafford.
The 36-year-old joined United late in the summer transfer window from Juventus, returning to Manchester after 12 seasons away.
The Portuguese superstar has become the best paid player in the Premier League, earning a staggering £510k per week – working out at an annual salary of £26.5million.
AFP via Getty Images)
Since his return to the Red Devils, the club’s official social media streams have, somewhat understandably, devoted a lot of their output to the forward.
Ronaldo is such a recognisable name that he – alongside his long-term rival Lionel Messi – almost transcend the sport and are more ‘marketable’ than any individual club.
The strategy is understandable with United keen to boost their social interactions and following numbers, which leads to a stronger sell to potential sponsors that then leads to increased revenue streams.
Yet it could also have an adverse impact on coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who no longer appears to be the most important person at the club – breaking a crucial rule set by Ferguson.
The Scot once used a new contract for United’s former star Wayne Rooney to negotiate a new and improved contract, ensuring that he remained as the best paid employee at Old Trafford.
Not only does United’s social strategy help propel Ronaldo to a higher status than Solskjaer, it could have the impact of putting more pressure on the Norwegian – who does not hold the same status.
Ferguson wrote in his book Leading, on the art of management: “I told them I did not think it fair that Rooney should earn twice what I made.
“[United co-chairman] Joel Glazer said: ‘I totally agree but what should we do?’ It was simple. We just agreed no player should be paid more than me.”
Ronaldo’s £510k weekly salary is one of seven United stars – alongside David De Gea, Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial – who earn more than Solskjaer’s £200k per week wage.
Ironically, Solskjaer’s decision to omit Ronaldo from a recent Premier League starting line-up against Everton appears to have been criticised by Ferguson, who said in a private conversation with UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov “you should always start with your best players.”
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Ronaldo’s petulant walk-off at the final whistle of the match – which ended 1-1 – drew criticism from former United captain Gary Neville, who accused him of undermining Solskjaer.
“I watched the game and I watched him walk off,” said Neville. “I can’t say I like it.
“Is Cristiano upset when he doesn’t play? Yes. Is he upset when he doesn’t score? Yes.
“Is Cristiano annoyed as hell when the team doesn’t win? Of course. We know these things, he doesn’t need to prove that.
“He walked off the pitch muttering to himself, which in some ways throws the questions up in the air.
“What’s he saying? Who’s he annoyed with? And it can only come back to the manager
“So I do think actions like that – Ronaldo is smart enough to know – will bring real pressure, more pressure on Ole.
“Cristiano won’t always score and can’t play every single game, but I think if he’s going to walk off like that it’s going to put immense pressure on Ole.
“There’s no doubt the talk after the game was about the manager.”
Neville’s words should have sounded as a warning to United and their social media team, who could be more savvy in balancing Ronaldo’s position at the club without elevating him to a status that appears to supersede them.
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