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Soccer: Manchester United considering split with Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo recently ripped manager Erik ten Hag (R) in an interview with Piers Morgan. Photo by Peter Powell/EPA-EFE
Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo recently ripped manager Erik ten Hag (R) in an interview with Piers Morgan. Photo by Peter Powell/EPA-EFE

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Manchester United of England's Premier League is considering contract termination and split with soccer icon Cristiano Ronaldo after the striker made critical comments about the club in an unsanctioned interview.

Sources told ESPN, The Athletic and Sky Sports about the potential split Friday morning. Those reports also stated that Manchester United started the legal process against Ronaldo for breach of contract.

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Ronaldo criticized manager Erik ten Hag and others within the Manchester United franchise Sunday in an interview with TalkTV's Piers Morgan.

Premier League employment contracts state that players shall not "knowingly or recklessly" say anything that "is likely to bring the club or the game of football into disrepute, cause the player or the club to be in breach of the rules or cause damage to the club or its officers or employees."

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"Manchester United has this morning initiated appropriate steps in response to Cristiano Ronaldo's recent media interview," the Red Devils said Friday in a statement.

"We will not be making further comment until this process reaches its conclusion."

Ronaldo, 37, signed up for his second stint with the Red Devils in 2021. He signed a two-year contract with a third-year option. He scored 24 goals in his first season back with the club. He scored three times in 16 appearances this season.

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The Red Devils went 16-12-10 to finish sixth last season in the Premier League. They are 8-4-2 through 14 Premier League games this season. They fired former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last November and hired ten Hag in April.

Ronaldo started his senior career in 2002 at Sporting CP in Portugal's Primeira Liga. He joined United for the first time in 2003 and left in 2009 for Spanish La Liga power Real Madrid. Ronaldo spent the 2018 to 21 campaigns with Juventus of Italy's Serie A. He also has totaled nearly 200 appearances for Portugal's national team.

Ronaldo told Morgan that he thought Manchester United would be an improved franchise when he returned for his second tenure, but was "surprised" by the "instability" of the club.

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"Piers, to be honest, when I signed for Manchester United, I thought everything was changed because it's 13 years," Ronaldo said.

"I was in Real Madrid nine years and three in Juventus. And when I arrived, I thought everything will be different, you know, the technology, the infrastructures and everything. But I was surprised, in a bad way, let's say in that way because I saw everything was the same."

Ronaldo also blasted ten Hag for using "excuses all the time" for the clubs poor performances and his usage. Ronaldo was taken out of the starting lineup earlier this season and left the bench area during the Red Devils' win last month against Tottenham Hotspur. He was suspended for three days as a result of that decision.

He said he was "humiliated" as a result of the suspension and that he doesn't "respect" ten Hag.

"I don't have respect for him because he doesn't show respect for me," Ronaldo said. "If you don't have respect for me, I'm never gonna have respect for you."

Ronaldo also confirmed that he attempted to leave the Red Devils over the summer. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's contract is set to expire in August, if his third-year option is not exercised.

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Ronaldo is training with Portugal for the 2022 World Cup, but missed a recent session due to illness. Portugal will open its World Cup slate against Ghana on Thursday in Doha, Qatar.

Manchester United is set to face Cadiz in a friendly Dec. 7 in Cadiz, Spain.

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