London (AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United has been plunged into fresh doubt after he was dropped from the squad for Saturday's clash with Chelsea following his tantrum against Tottenham.
Ronaldo stormed down the Old Trafford tunnel with several minutes remaining in United's 2-0 win over Tottenham on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old star reportedly told United manager Erik ten Hag that he did not want to come on as a late substitute.
Ten Hag said after the Tottenham match that he would "deal with" the issue on Thursday and Ronaldo was seen driving into United's Carrington training headquarters before the announcement of his punishment.
It was not the first time Ronaldo had shown public dissent at his role in Ten Hag's team's and the United manager has finally responded by wielding the axe.
"Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of the Manchester United squad for this Saturday's Premier League game against Chelsea.The rest of the squad is fully focused on preparing for that fixture," a United statement said on Thursday.
Ronaldo responded to his shock omission from the squad by claiming the Tottenham incident had come in the heat of the moment.
Pledging to keep working to win back his place, Ronaldo said on Instagram: "I started very young, the older and most experienced players examples were always very important to me.
"Therefore, later on, I've always tried to set the example myself for the youngsters that grew in all the teams that I've represented.Unfortunately that's not always possible and sometimes the heat of the moment gets the best of us.
"Right now, I just feel that I have to keep working hard in Carrington, support my teammates and be ready for everything in any given game.
"Giving in to the pressure is not an option.It never was.This is Manchester United, and united we must stand.Soon we'll be together again."
It is believed Ten Hag's decision to remove Ronaldo from the squad has the full backing of the United hierarchy.
United chiefs are said to be weighing up a decision on Ronaldo's long-term future after the disciplinary issue.
But whether there can be a way back for the unhappy Portugal striker remains to be seen.
United would have to wait until the transfer window reopens on January 1 before they could sell Ronaldo, whose huge salary could prove a stumbling block to potential buyers.
Disappointed by United's failure to qualify for the Champions League, Ronaldo has been trying to engineer a move away from Old Trafford since the end of last season.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus star had hoped to join a club in the Champions League, but he found offers from Europe's elite hard to come by.
Ronaldo missed United's pre-season tour to Australia and Asia for "family reasons" before making another show of frustration in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano.
Playing under Ten Hag for the first time, Ronaldo was substituted at half-time and responded by leaving Old Trafford before the match had finished.
Ronaldo also reacted badly when he was substituted by Ten Hag in last weekend's draw against Newcastle.
Ten Hag has rarely trusted Ronaldo as his main striker since arriving from Ajax to take charge in the close season.
Ronaldo, a five-time Champions League winner with Real and United, has started only two Premier League games this season, also making six substitute appearances and scoring only one goal.
He also has four Europa League starts and one goal in the second-tier competition he was so keen to avoid after United finished outside the Premier League's top four last term.
Since rejoining United from Juventus in 2021, Ronaldo has been a shadow of the figure who starred in his first stint at the club from 2003 to 2009.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner did finish as United's top scorer last season with 24 goals, but he never appeared settled, clashing with former bosses Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick.
It is reported Ronaldo has made thinly-veiled criticism of Ten Hag and his coaching team during training sessions, even ignoring one senior staff member.
Ten Hag's decision to drop him from the Chelsea game underlines how he viewed Ronaldo's show of petulance and potentially started a countdown to the end of his time at Old Trafford.