Andrea Pirlo is unsure what went wrong for Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and emphasised his professionalism under his management at Juventus.
Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia at the start of the year after seeing his contract terminated by mutual agreement at United. The 38-year-old was sacked by United after giving a bombshell interview to Piers Morgan in which he lamented the way he had been treated by the club.
His move to the Middle East came after a series of incidents at Old Trafford, which included slapping a phone out of the hand of an Everton fan, storming down the tunnel early more than once and sulking on the substitutes’ bench. United eventually grew tired of his lack of professionalism, but Pirlo was bemused by what he saw, having worked with him at Juventus.
“For me it was easy to work with him,” he told the Daily Mail. “He was a good guy, very professional. He wanted to play every game, to score every game. We didn't have a problem but football changes very quickly. Age also.”
He added: “'Maybe he had a problem with another team, but for me it was a good experience.”
Pirlo managed Ronaldo from August 2020 to May 2021 at Juve – a season which saw the club win the Coppa Italia despite their problems. Ronaldo was still in peak form back then, contributing 36 goals and six assists in 44 appearances under the former midfielder’s management.
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This is not the first time that Pirlo has stuck up for his former player. Speaking back in November, around the time of the explosive interview with Morgan, the 43-year-old put forward a theory as to why Ronaldo was willing to burn his bridges with United.
“I think Ronaldo had been waiting for a long time to give that interview. He’d prepared everything beforehand,” Pirlo told Diretta.it.
“Ronaldo has always had pressure on him and always will, that’s not an issue for him. I don’t think it put pressure on the Portugal squad either, because even if he hadn’t given that interview, the media still would’ve asked him questions about Manchester United during the World Cup.
“I think this is why he decided to get it out of the way, like pulling out a tooth that is wobbly, and now he’ll be even more fired up than before.”
Pirlo is now the manager of Fatih Karagumruk, who are ninth in the Turkish Super Lig. After a difficult start in Turkey, he has stabilised the team, going seven games unbeaten before the league was postponed following the deadly earthquake in the east of the country.