Raphaël Varane has admitted Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview – in which he criticised Manchester United’s owners and the manager, Erik ten Hag – has sent shockwaves through the squad.
Ronaldo, speaking to Piers Morgan on TalkTV, announced he did not respect Ten Hag and claimed a number of individuals at United were trying to force him out. The 37‑year‑old forward also claimed the Glazer family, owners since 2005, did not care about the club.
United are taking legal advice – and awaiting broadcast of the full interview – before issuing a response and while a statement did say their “focus remains on … continuing the momentum, belief and togetherness being built”, the effects of the interview are clearly being felt by the rest of the United players.
Varane, who is preparing for the World Cup with France, told the radio station Europe 1: “Obviously it affects us. We follow what is happening and what is being said.
“We try to calm the situation in our own way, we try not to get too involved in it. When it’s a star like Cristiano Ronaldo, even more so we try to take it with distance, that is to say that we do not try to change the situation alone, we are part of a collective.
“What I want is the best for my team so whatever the decision [by the club], as a player, we will accept it and give the best of ourselves.”
With his words still being digested by the United players, Ronaldo missed training with Portugal on Wednesday because of a stomach bug. It caps an eventful week for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has also been involved in awkward exchanges with his international teammates Bruno Fernandes and João Cancelo. Portugal will get their World Cup campaign under way next week against Ghana.
Meanwhile, the France squad have announced they have pledged to financially support non‑governmental organisations and charities which work towards the protection of human rights.
The World Cup has been stained by the appalling lack of protection for migrant workers who have endured exploitative, even deadly, conditions as Qatar prepared for the tournament while the country’s stance on LGBT+ rights has also cast a long shadow over the event.
“We are players, we have this way of expressing ourselves, but it’s human that we expressed this through this letter,” said Varane, France’s vice-captain. “It’s also a lot of light [shone] on us and we also want to express humanly what we feel.”