That’s all folks. It’s over. For the second time in his career, Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United. Yet, unlike the first time, this won’t be for a record-breaking transfer fee. Nor does it come with the good will of the club, fans and teammates.

Instead, this time, one of the greatest players of all time silently shuffles out the back door mid-season. Everyone involved is eager to move on as quickly as possible.

How this came to be is a depressing story of ego, agents and a desperate TV presenter. However ugly the end, the uncomfortable truth is that his departure is actually good news for all parties.

Not the Ronaldo of the older days

The Ronaldo that arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2001 was not the same creature who left all those years ago. Yes, he has more goals, more records and more Instagram followers. Still, there is no denying this is very much post-peak Ronaldo. The desire was still there, the self-belief certainly still apparent. But, the blistering pace, incisive running and game-changing quality succumbed to the hands of time.

Of course, there were moments when he briefly shone to. Singlehandedly, Ronaldo rolled back the years and dragged Manchester United out of the depths. A hat trick against Tottenham Hotspur and numerous last-gasp Champions League winners are just examples. The club did not deserve results, but Ronaldo got them there.

That is what great players do, it remains in their DNA even during their decline. The issue was that the decline was irreversible and increasingly notable. Juventus spotted it too.

There was a sense of a pairing that never quite felt like the right fit. Like a middle-aged man trying to recapture his youth by squeezing into the leather jacket of his teenage years. The two were no longer compatible.

Ronaldo exit from Man United benefits player and club

United were a team in transition and eager to try to move to something a little more modern. Initially, Ronaldo played under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The former United forward was an unthreatening manager. Surely, he was not strong enough to stand up to a player of Ronaldo’s power.

When he departed, and new manager Erik ten Hag eventually arrived, his high-pressing and physically demanding style of play was far more suited to a younger, more energetic model. The writing was on the wall.

Things may’ve been smoother had there been a solid structure in place at United. Or at least something resembling a plan. One of the comments that rang true in Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan was his statement that United are a club in stasis. There has been no change, no urgency to develop and nobody in charge with a good idea. The irony of course is that had their been, there’s no way anyone sensible would have agreed to bring back an ageing Ronaldo no longer suited to this style and well past his best.

As sad as it is, that’s the truth of the matter. Ronaldo no longer fits in with United and United no longer fit with Ronaldo. He wants – needs – to be the main man at any club. Playing a bit-part role and spending more time on the bench doesn’t do any good for his GOAT image. And having an angry superstar earning half-a-million week while not playing doesn’t do much good for United either.

However the decision was made. Ronaldo, Man United and the fans must accept that this exit, this divorce of titans, is best for everybody.

Where Ronaldo ends up next is a decision for another day but. Judging by the lack of super clubs’ willingness to sign him, his desire to play in the Champions League again may be over once and for all.

PHOTO: IMAGO / PanoramiC