When Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to Manchester United in 2021, expectations from both parties were high.
Here came the prodigal son, making his dramatic return to Old Trafford in order to turn around the fortunes of a club struggling to compete at the highest level.
And while he showed flashes of his goal scoring prowess in his first season back, his return has ultimately flattered to deceive and now the relationship between Ronaldo and Manchester United appears to have soured.
The superstar had tried to leave United before the season started and the relationship reached a new low during United’s dour 0-0 draw against Newcastle on Sunday, in which Ronaldo was substituted for Marcus Rashford after 72 minutes.
The Portuguese striker looked far from happy after being hooked off by manager Erik ten Hag but his performance had been as frustrating as it had been lackluster.
It was representative of his form for United of late, with Ronaldo managing just one league goal in a season where he’s been limited largely to substitute appearances.
“We have to cover four games in 10 days and especially for the strikers I want to keep them fresh,” Ten Hag told reporters when asked about his decision to take off Ronaldo.
“I want to keep them all fresh, so we have to rotate there.”
In truth, the expectations of Ronaldo have probably been unfair.
He is undoubtedly a fading force and no club should pin all its hopes on a 37-year-old – no matter how physically fit they keep themselves.
Where once he was bullying defenders and finishing almost every half-chance that came his way, Ronaldo is now frequently caught offside and looks to be trying too hard to find his once talismanic talent.
It was summed up by a desperate attempt against Newcastle, with Ronaldo nicking the ball off goalkeeper Nick Pope and rolling it into an empty net before the shot stopper had even taken a freekick. He then received a yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.