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Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo's reaction to being substituted in Man Utd win over Brentford - Petulance or passion?

5:46 PM GMT 20/01/2022
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd 2021-22
The Portugal international was substituted against Brentford before he could manage to score and was not happy about leaving the pitch

When the fourth official's board went up in the 71st minute at the Brentford Community Stadium on Wednesday night, and the number seven flashed up, Cristiano Ronaldo stood with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. 

He was being replaced by Harry Maguire and he was not happy about it

This is Ronaldo; the same Ronaldo who was presented with a special FIFA award earlier in the week to mark breaking the men’s international goalscoring record, the same Ronaldo who last week vowed to play until he is over 40 and the same Ronaldo who has only been substituted twice in the 14 league games he had started since returning to Manchester United. 

He hadn’t found the back of the net by the time he saw his number on the electronic board in the second half of a 3-1 win against Brentford and that will have only added to his fury

What happened as he left the pitch set the tone for the post-match discussion as the 36-year-old threw a strop.

There was a pat on the back for Maguire as he replaced him but no eye contact. It was the same for manager Ralf Rangnick; a shake of the hand but the forward wasn’t interested in pleasantries. 

He was handed a coat which he started to put on while he muttered to those around him before he threw the coat on the ground and took a seat on the concrete step of the dugout. Those sat behind him glanced to look in his direction but there were no arms of support or words of motivation as he sat simmering and sipping from his water bottle. 

“Why was I brought off?” he consistently asked assistant Chris Armas and technical director Darren Fletcher. The game had restarted but the majority of the eyes of those sat in the South Stand were fixated on the forward as he demanded an answer for his removal. 

Six minutes later, as the squad celebrated Marcus Rashford’s goal, Rangnick sat down and put his hand on Ronaldo’s arm, explaining his decision. 

“I  said, ‘Cristiano, you’re still ambitious and you want to score yourself but maybe in a couple of years when you’re a head coach yourself you will hopefully make the same decision and be in the same role I was today after 75 minutes',” Rangnick explained afterwards. 

Ex-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was accused of not bringing Ronaldo off in games where he wasn’t performing to the best of his ability but Rangnick, to his credit, has no issue with substituting the Portugal international.

It was a tactical substitution that worked on the night and he would have no problem making the same decision again. The German joked he did not expect a hug from the forward when he made the decision and insists there is no problem between them. 

So is it really as big a deal as it has been made out? 

It is understood the staff and players weren’t offended by Ronaldo's reaction and Rangnick understood it. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has history of throwing his toys out of the pram at every club he has played for.

His reaction when he was brought off in the 2009 Manchester derby at Old Trafford was far more dramatic than his coat-throwing petulance in West London. 

His interviews last week questioned the mentality of some of the squad players and he doubted if they wanted to learn from the more experienced heads in the dressing room.

There will be many that would argue that throwing a strop when you’re brought off isn’t the example to lead by but on the flip side it shows a passion and desire to always contribute. It is that mentality which has seen him score over 800 career goals and has him still playing at the top level at 36. 

He has been at the top of his game for so long that his 'Siuuuu!' celebration has transcended football boundaries and is currently being heard at the Australian Open, much to the annoyance of some of the world's top tennis stars. He has a cult following that means whatever he does, others will follow. 

Some will argue that he should know better than to be behaving petulantly on the sidelines during a game that is being broadcast around the world. But for those close to him it is no issue; it highlights his passion and he always strives to be 100 percent professional. 

Ronaldo is guaranteed to be brought off on other occasions between now and the end of the season. The debate will no doubt air again because he’s never going to willingly skip down the tunnel when he sees his number is up. 

It would be strange if he ever did.