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Cristiano Ronaldo has three key factors that will decide if he quits Man Utd this summer

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When Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United tied the knot for a second time last September, a two-year contract with the option of a third season was the deal. It was a nod to his remarkable longevity as much as his undiminished superstar status that such a backstop was even inserted in the first place. Yet if that always seemed more hopeful than realistic, the question now is not about the possibility of a third season to go on past his 39th birthday but whether he will still be around for the second.

And just at the moment it looks like it would be a brave man who bets on him being in red next August.

Ronaldo’s on-field contract was worth an estimated £40million spread over two seasons but money is not the chief motivation for a player who earns over £40m posting on Instagram and is worth over £360m.

More important to Ronaldo is that he is contributing and winning and adored. And in the time frame offered to him by his current deal at United all three are open to question.

Ronaldo’s motivations seem simple enough: whatever embellishes his legacy is good; whatever diminishes it bad. And despite flashes of goalscoring form this season, his second coming at United is tending towards the latter.

The excitement of that explosive debut against Newcastle, a match for which tickets allegedly changed hands for £2,500 and in which he scored twice, seems long gone.

In the subsequent 19 games he has scored six goals and none in his last six outings in all competitions.

In Europe, the picture is better. He almost single-handedly dragged them through the Champions League group stage with six goals in six games and for all that he approaches next week’s last 16 against Atletico Madrid on a cold streak, you would not put it past him adding to that.

Yet for interim boss Ralf Rangnick his presence presents a difficulty as well as an opportunity with justifiable question marks over whether Ronaldo is making the team better.

Several other players have seemed diminished by his arrival. Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho (although he is showing signs of emerging from his slow start), Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes to name four.

Others like Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and the now-departed Anthony Martial found first-team opportunities limited by his place as a sure-fire pick.

When he has not been picked or been hooked in a game he has made his annoyance known thereby undermining Rangnick and it is hard to know whether his goals have been worth the trouble on occasions.

On the plus side United insiders say Ronaldo continues to demonstrate the perfect professional path off the pitch if the club’s youngsters want to learn from it.

Results have served to back Rangnick out of the picture for the long-term appointment as manager but it could be his lasting legacy will be to loosen the emotional ties between United and Ronaldo.

Whoever takes over in the summer – Mauricio Pochettinho and Erik ten Hag are the front runners – they will not want to be handed a problem by Rangnick marked ‘Cristiano’ on their first day.

Three factors could have a bearing on when Ronaldo decides the time is right to back out. The first is obvious should the club fail to make the top four and reach next season’s Champions League.

The second is the identity of the new manager and whether he is prepared, for any length of time, to keep Ronaldo as the focus for the rebuild.

The third is whether Portugal, who face two crucial World Cup playoff qualifiers on March 24 and 29 first against Turkey and, if successful, then against European Champions Italy, can reach Qatar.

If Portugal reach the finals Ronaldo would probably stick around even in the Europa League in order to keep himself sharp for Qatar. And then?

Might Ronaldo see that as the perfect sign off to a career and quit United in mid-November then gladly handing back the remaining five months on his contract after the World Cup?

In some ways that would be the perfect solution.



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Ruud van Nistelrooy makes next job decision as Man Utd plan coaching appointment

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That decision failed to pay off, however, with the Red Devils sacking Moyes after just 10 months in charge.

After the current West Ham boss came Van Gaal, who arrived with big things expected due to his past success at the likes of Barcelona and Ajax.

Giggs was hoping to get the Red Devils job himself, which was why he stayed, but both ended up leaving nearly six years ago.

When Jose Mourinho took over, he opted to maintain his close relationship with Rui Faria – who had previously worked under him at clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Fair departed in the summer of 2018, though, with Michael Carrick then given a place on Mourinho’s bench.

Carrick stayed to work under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the Norwegian also regularly picking up the thoughts of Phelan and Kieran McKenna throughout his spell in the dugout.

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