What was Ronaldo's motivation for giving that interview?
Neville: I think he's, over a period of many, many months, stored up pent-up frustration, he's not done any interview at all this season for any broadcaster, whether it's Sky Sports or BT Sport. United are on nearly every single week and I suspect he's been asked to do an interview after every game, every single week and he's chosen not to speak. He's felt he's needed to come out and say his piece and get off his chest what's been bugging him.
Do you think he's misjudged this situation? Did he go into it thinking the United fans would be on-side?
I don't know what he thought in respect of what United fans would think [about the interview]. I've called for many years for football players to be open, to be independent thinking and come out and speak their minds and not be micro-managed with an inch of their lives by PR teams. I can't think that's happened here - I can't think any PR advisor would have told him to go and do what he's done. He would have done this off his own back with his own strength of character and personality.
There was probably a different way to do it but that was from the club's side and Cristiano's side. When I had that debate in the studio after the Chelsea game three or four weeks ago with Roy Keane, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dave Jones, I urged Man Utd and Cristiano to come together that week because it was obvious the relationship was failing or had failed and to navigate a pathway to January or the World Cup where they created a truce. Exits don't have to happen this way if both sides are proactive and mature.
I'm disappointed that meeting doesn't seem to have happened. Cristiano hasn't been controlled or managed, it doesn't look like Cristiano has reached out to the club and opened communication lines. It's ended up in this quite unsavoury situation whereby it looks like Cristiano is going to end this period of his reign at Man Utd in not a great a feeling as it should be. He's one of the greatest players ever to play the game in the world and certainly one of Man Utd's greatest ever players.
It's sometimes difficult. I remember when players left Man Utd when I was there and it didn't always end in the right way and it never felt right. And it still doesn't feel right now as a fan it doesn't feel right that someone I played with needs to leave the club in this way, or the club need to end it this way.
Is there any way back for him at United?
No [there's no way back for him at Man Utd] and I don't think he wants a way back. He wouldn't do this interview if he wanted a way back. This interview was one he knew would bring about the headlines it has and bring the end of his Man Utd career.
From a club point of view, Cristiano has said what he's said, he's come out and basically criticised, whether it be the young players at the club, whether it be Erik ten Hag, the owners, the board… if you do that in any business, if you criticise your line manager, your owners, your board, your executives then there's obviously going to be no employment there for you in the future. At this moment in time I'm wondering what Man Utd are doing because the reality of it is they know they have to terminate Cristiano's contract or they basically open up a precedent so any player can criticise them in the future.
I agree with some of the things Cristiano has said and many Man Utd fans will agree with many things Cristiano has said but the reality is if you're an employee within a business and say those things your employment has to terminate and Man Utd no doubt have to do that in the next few days. Cristiano probably wants that as well but it didn't need to end like that. They could have come together a couple of weeks ago and navigated a smooth pathway through what could have potentially been choppy seas to the shore but it's not happened, they've both basically backed themselves into a corner.
We saw pictures of what appeared to be a frosty handshake between Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes. In the United dressing room, will the players be disappointed?
Deep down I think the players will be very disappointed. To be fair, it's actually where my criticism for Cristiano came from four weeks ago. I said I didn't really care about his relationship with the manager - we've all seen players and managers fall out over the years - but one thing you don't do… particularly with the upbringing Cristiano has had at Man Utd, is you stay strong in the dressing room and you stay there for your group and make sure you're with your team-mates through thick and thin, substitute, no substitute, win, lose, injury, no injury you make sure you're with your team-mates to the end.
When, for the second time, he left the ground before the end of a match, that wasn't the professional behaviour you'd expect of Cristiano knowing the upbringing he's had at that club and what he would know is the right and wrong things to do, from that point of view it's indefensible when he left the ground the second time. I think he'd have been better off, if he had a problem with Ten Hag at the end of that match, having it out in the dressing room in front of the players, shaking the players hands and then getting into his car and leaving.
At the end of the day, Cristiano has dipped below his standards in the last few weeks, months. He'll realise that today or in many years' time but ultimately he won't enjoy this period in his life. It happens to us all where we have these moments and dips where we don't behave or do the things we want to do. I think he's going through one of those moments.
When I saw him on the interview, he is a sensitive, quite vulnerable character, for all his greatness and special talent he's quite a sensitive individual, as most people are deep down. He looked a little bit like a lost sheep at times when he was speaking in that interview.
The reality is he's done it, you have to applaud someone who speaks their mind, I can never, ever criticise someone... I've been calling for him to come out and speak his mind. I've wanted to hear from him for the last three months because he's left other players, his manager at the club to come out and answer the difficult questions for him. But at least now he's answered them all, which I think is a positive out of this if there is one.
He says he doesn't respect Erik ten Hag. How do you think the manager has handled this situation up until that interview and what do you think Ten Hag will do after it?
I think Erik ten Hag has handled a very difficult first six months at United perfectly well. I don't think he could have done anything different. Cristiano Ronaldo's a monster of a player, a monster of a character, with a massive reach. He's been in a bit of difficult position because if he publicly takes him on, he's probably not going to win. Privately, we know he has problems with Ronaldo because he keeps leaving him out.
But Ronaldo, Ten Hag, the executives, sporting directors, owners, they should have got in a room a few weeks ago and said, 'We don't respect each other, we don't like each other, we don't want this to continue so let's end it properly'. They've not done that - there's not been proactive leadership. They've shied away from it thinking it's going to be OK but that doesn't happen in football, particularly when you're dealing with such a big character and special player like Ronaldo. He's not going to accept that. He's not going to sit there and think he's going to be bashed from pillar to post.
Maybe it happens with me at times - when you're a football player, you do suffer from a bit of paranoia at times, when you think everyone's against you. Not everyone's against Ronaldo. In fact, he's much-loved in this country, in this city of Manchester and by most people who speak about him, even if they are offering criticism of him, deep down they will still have enormous respect and love for him as a player, and for what he's done for the game.
Cristiano looks like someone who thinks the world's against him, that everybody doesn't like him. It's not like that, it doesn't have to be like that. The club need to reach out to Cristiano and his advisers and vice versa and navigate a way this ends very quickly. It's becoming more unsavoury by the day and there's no need for it to be like that.
He feels you're against him, he claims you've spoken about him in order to get attention for yourself. What do you make of that and what are your feelings towards him now?
It's not true, what he said, but all's fair in love and war. I live in the game of criticism and know I have to accept it, and I get plenty of it back. I love all my team-mates I played with, including Cristiano. The disappointment I've had in the last few weeks and months is he's dropped below a standard I know he has and has set previously in his behaviour. He'll realise that one day, in 10, 15 years, as I have many times in my life. I suspect he's a little bit uncomfortable at this moment in time, in terms of the fallout of what's happened, because deep down he's a sensitive, good human being.
He's just not handling the latter part of his career as easily or as well as he could do. He's got that mentality that I can't describe that people have of his ilk. It's a monster mentality that basically means they cannot accept things going against them or obstacles being put in their way. They think everybody's against them, but it isn't like that. I'm not against Ronaldo - far from it. I couldn't have any more admiration for him, I couldn't have any more respect for him.
He's the greatest player I've ever seen and he's the most talented player I ever played with at Manchester United. I think about what Cristiano's said about me in the past and these comments are fair and I want Cristiano, as a player and a leader, to speak more. I think he should have been out there this season, when his team-mates were finding it difficult, speaking for them.
I saw Cristiano's comments on social media and I accept all is fair in love and war, we live in the game of the media, we have to accept criticism. Jurgen Klopp criticised me and he may think I sometimes criticise him - it's part of the game. It's the world we live in. I live on television with people at Sky every single day and we have these huge arguments and debates but we shake each other's hands at the end of it. I would still shake Cristiano's hand - he may not shake mine! But I don't carry things forward.
Ronaldo mentioned the club have stagnated since the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Does he have a point there?
I've made that point stronger than anybody in the last couple of years. It's the first time I've heard someone say it who's been in the club as a player, so there'll be many Manchester United fans - including myself - who'll welcome his honesty.
It's quite clear the club - whether it be the stadium, training ground, football project - has suffered badly and has failed in the last eight to 10 years. But Cristiano joined the club 18 months ago knowing that. He knew the club had stagnated, he knew the cub was in a difficult position, he knew the club was falling well below the standards it had set previously.
Cristiano was there to drag those standards up and work with those young players and try to bring them forward. I was disappointed when he criticised the young players and said players aren't what they used to be. That's what people used to say about us when we came through in the 1990s. It's what 40, 50 year old people, late-30 year old people say about the young 16, 17, 18-year-olds and it's not true.
I spoke to my grandparents when I was growing up and they used to say, 'you don't know you're born, you don't know how lucky you are'. They're things all our parents and our grandparents have said. But the reality is we don't choose to be born in this era, the social media era, which is very different.
I actually think football players nowadays are more resilient than they were 20 years ago because of the criticism they get on social media and the scrutiny that's on them, there's 50 cameras in their face every single minute of their on-the-field lives and off-the-field lives. We used to be able to go out and have a pint without ever being filmed or pictured. The scrutiny the current generation of player is under, in terms of analysis, in terms of punditry, in terms of scrutiny of their off-field activity and everyday lives is far greater than it was 25 years ago.
I think these lads have their own element of toughness in them that I've seen in the last few years with some of his team-mates, like Marcus Rashford who has taken on huge political and social fights and won, people like Raheem Sterling, there are others like Jordan Henderson at Liverpool who have set up charities and done big things during Covid. These lads demonstrate the resilience of the modern British player, and international players like Juan Mata who set up the one per cent of his wages a few years ago.
These players are demonstrating great leadership, great qualities. The Premier League is the best standard I've ever seen it. And I'm well placed to comment on that because I played in the Premier League with Cristiano 15 years ago and it's better today than it was then.
I think it's a little bit unfair to criticise the young players at Man Utd and generally the way footballers are perceived because that's not true and I don't believe it to be true. We were very lucky when we came through at United that we had great leaders. When Cristiano came through at Manchester United, we had a great leadership group that looked after him, comforted him, lived with his on-the-pitch immaturity, eccentric-ness that he had at the time, and worked with him with the coaching team to make him as good as he possibly could be. That's what these young players at Man Utd need today. They need leadership, they need guidance, information. I don't think that's always happened in the last 18 months when I've been watching the club.
Do you think these comments will have particularly hurt someone like Alejandro Garnacho. He scored his first Premier League goal in the last minute against Fulham and then he hears these comments from someone he idolises in Cristiano Ronaldo?
I don't know if Cristiano's comments were directly at Garnacho, only Cristiano would know that. I don't think they were, maybe. One thing I would say is when they young boy scored that goal at Fulham on Sunday. It wasn't a similar goal to the one Cristiano scored all those years ago at Fulham but it was in the same area of the pitch and it felt like a significant moment in that young player's career, as that goal was for Cristiano that day.
I'd have probably just rung Piers Morgan up and said, 'Look just pull it back until tomorrow, let's let the young kid have his night tonight, let's let the young kid have the headlines tomorrow.' I did think that was unwise, personally.
I still think like a player in a dressing room with a group of people, and I was in a dressing room with a group of people whereby there were definitely fights at times with the management or the club and those things were happening while I was in the dressing room. But we always had each other's backs internally, and looked after each other internally and made sure we stayed together internally.
On Sunday night, when his team mate has just scored a last-minute winner, his team had scored a last-minute winner, the young boy had just scored a hero goal in a great moment, it would probably have been better for Cristiano to put back his announcement of his interview until Monday night off the back of it. But the reality is it's gone out, it is what it is.
I'm hoping Cristiano chose to do that interview himself and he wasn't guided to do that by his PR team, that he has got the independent thought to go and do it. It would seem to me something that he probably has done, which is good - I hate the idea of modern football players (who I think are fantastic, producing great football) being micro-managed to within an inch of their lives and not being able to speak openly and criticise people.
If I criticise someone on television I'm happy for the player to come back and have a pop at me. That's the way it should be. They don't need to be wrapped up in cotton wool all the time and you can be more expressive and more open with their feelings. I'm not going to criticise Cristiano for doing that type of interview because I want more players to do those types of interviews. But maybe he could have timed it better in terms of the release after the boy scored the goal on Sunday because that was an important moment for that kid.
What next for Ronaldo? Where do you see him going?
I don't know where he goes. He needs to go somewhere that's going to accept the way he wants the rest of his career to play out. If you look at what happened at Juventus at the end and you look at what's happening at Man Utd, one of these can happen but when it happens twice it's a pattern.
He needs to choose a club which suits Cristiano at the end of his career which means he has a level of control, because that's what he wants. He obviously is someone who wants to be playing every single week irrespective of whether the team are better for it or he's better for it, and he needs to choose somewhere that suits the end of his career.
Piers Morgan Uncensored: 90 Minutes with Ronaldo continues on TalkTV on Thursday at 8pm.