Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted his poorly performing Manchester United side must finish in the Premier League top three while also backing manager Ralf Rangnick and speaking on the new generation of players.
The 36-year-old rejoined United on transfer deadline day, in a deal that saw his last employers Juventus paid around $15 million.
Penning a two-year deal with an optional additional season, Ronaldo made a great start to his second life at Old Trafford by inspiring a spirited comeback against Newcastle United.
Since then, though, despite some rousing performances in the Champions League and a total 14 goals in 21 outings, things have gone pearshaped in Manchester with coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fired for poor results and his interim replacement Ralf Rangnick thus far failing to inspire fans.
United currently languish in seventh in England’s top flight. But as ever, that won’t be good enough for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner known for his competitive edge.
Stressing that it will be “impossible” to close the gap to the the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea without the right attitude, Ronaldo told Sky Sports that he cannot “accept that our mentality [is] less than being in the top three in the Premier League.”
“I think to build up good things, sometimes you have to destroy a few things. So why not – new year, new life and I hope that Manchester can be the level that the fans want. They deserve that,” he said.
“I don’t accept less than the top three.”Cristiano Ronaldo says that #MUFC should not accept anything less than a top three finish in the Premier League this season. pic.twitter.com/A54QAmHqMK
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 12, 2022
“We are capable of changing things now,” Ronaldo insisted. “I know the way but I’m not going to mention it here because I don’t think it’s ethical on my part to say that.”
“What I can say is we can do better – all of us. Manchester belongs to important things, so we have to change that.
“I don’t want to be here to be in sixth place, or seventh place, or fifth place,” the ex-Real Madrid stated amid rumors that he could already leave the club this summer.
“I’m here to try to win, to compete. I think we compete but we are not yet [at] our best level.
“But we have a long way to improve and I believe if we change our mind, we can achieve big things,” Ronaldo said.
Cristiano Ronaldo: “Rangnick is doing a good job. Of course I don’t want to be here in the club to fight for sixth, seventh or fifth place”, he told Sky. 🔴 #MUFC “I’m here to try to win, to compete. I believe that if we change our mind, we can achieve big things”. @utdreportpic.twitter.com/eS9qSETML3
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 13, 2022
Offering his opinion that Rangnick has United on the right track, the German’s star man thinks his new coach needs time to implement changes.
“Since he arrived five weeks ago he changed many things,” Ronaldo noted.
“But he needs time to put his ideas across to the players.
“It takes time but I believe that he is going to do a good job. We know we aren’t playing the best football but we have many games to improve.
“Since he arrived I think in some points we are better, but he needs time,” Ronaldo reiterated. “It’s not that easy to change the mentality of players and the way they play, the culture, the system, like that. I believe that he is going to do a good job.”
“When things don’t go the way the club wants, the club has to change. I was disappointed but we have to understand the club. It was difficult but life continues,” he said regarding Solskjaer’s firing.
“But I still believe that we are capable of doing a good season. We know it’s going to take time to make the ideas of the new coach [work] on the pitch.
“But I’m looking forward. We have to work hard, we have to be together as players. We know we are not in the best moment, but I believe with working hard we can achieve important things, even this year.”
Ronaldo joined United as a teenager himself, and entered a dressing room filled with no-nonsense veterans such as Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
And amid gossip of a current dressing room divide, he also took the chance to slam hard-headed youngsters who are reluctant to take advice from their elders.
“I remember when I was 18 some older players spoke with me and I took that as having to improve. They know more than me as they have [had] more bad moments,” Ronaldo recalled.
Reminder that Cristiano Ronaldo is not some random player we signed. He’s won it all at Utd and knows the real standards and mentality required at this club.Any current Man Utd player who can’t take advice/criticism from Ronaldo doesn’t deserve to be at the club. pic.twitter.com/SbzUF3CRxv
— UtdFaithfuls (@UtdFaithfuls) January 13, 2022
“[But] this new generation in general don’t accept that if you criticize them. I have kids I know. They do the opposite.
“I don’t say [it about] our players but in general. You have to find the right balance to speak with them. It’s a new year we have to change the page. We have many things to win. We have to believe that or it will be a nightmare.
“I’m here to help. When they need my support and advice, I will be the [first one] to help. If you don’t want my help and my advice, do your job [and] look at yourself. Do your best to help the team,” he demanded.
After beating them 1-0 in the FA Cup last time out, United again face Aston Villa on Saturday in the Premier League and can possibly move up to sixth providing Tottenham lose at home to bitter rivals Arsenal in the North London derby.