The launch of Manchester United’s new kit for the 2022-23 season includes Cristiano Ronaldo in promotional material, but a special advert to highlight him is being held in store until the club have clarity on his future.
Footage was shot of Ronaldo alongside Eric Cantona and David Beckham, bringing together three iconic United No 7s, and the final version was due to be released alongside the release of the latest Adidas shirts.
Uncertainty around Ronaldo – sparked by his telling United he wanted to leave if a suitable offer arrived and continued by his absence from Carrington for pre-season training and departure for their tour summer today – prompted to rethink. The announcement remains in the creation process and may be changed depending on Ronaldo’s status in Erik ten Hag’s team.
Ronaldo should still feature prominently if he stays. If he were to leave, there are ways to rework the announcement so that it still has an impact on fans. Another legendary No.7 involved in the process is Bryan Robson, who helped events around the 2015-16 kit launch.
On Friday morning, United posted a 30-second video on social media of several past and present players, including Ronaldo, alongside the release of the kit.
Given that the developments around Ronaldo are so recent, it was agreed between United and Adidas to take a break to put him at the center of the kit launch.
This approach seems sensible. It would have been incongruous for Ronaldo to gain prominence on an important club occasion so soon after declaring his wish to leave. But erasing him from all marketing could have been taken as an admission that he will be playing elsewhere this season.
On Thursday, the fourth day of training that Ronaldo missed for family reasons, United reiterated their stance that he is not for sale, dismissing suspicion that the club’s bosses are ready to do business for suitable offers. .
Undoubtedly, his global profile helps commercially and no one should expect United to give up on this elevation due to some turbulence sparked by the player. Posting photos of Ronaldo in the new kit, along with Cantona and other current players, seems like a sensible compromise in a sticky situation.
United couldn’t have had him in mind, even if he was flanked by two United royalty in Cantona and Beckham – two players who, coincidentally, each left Old Trafford with a certain element of drama. Cantona abruptly ended his career at the age of 30 after winning the title in 1997, shocking the country. Beckham also departed as champions in 2003 after a season in which Sir Alex Ferguson kicked a boot that hit him in the face.
Although Ronaldo, as the club’s most famous current player, was instrumental in setting up the kit’s promotion, Cantona was behind the campaign due to the collared shirt. He was recruited initially.
The imagery of Cantona raising his collar, as he did during his playing days, is seen as a stylish nod to nostalgia. The rest of the kit design is also something of a throwback.
Although the exact way of marketing was smooth, the launch date was still set for the end of this week before the team flew to Bangkok for the first leg of their pre-season tour. The kit launch was not delayed at all by Ronaldo’s request to leave.
On the day Ronaldo posed for a shot in the new kit, which happened around five weeks ago, he clearly looked like he would be at the club to wear it on the pitch. Whether he kept his advice or changed his mind in the meantime, only he knows.
Now there is no such confidence, and it was confirmed on Thursday evening that he would not board the plane for Thailand on Friday. He could still join the Australian leg, with United landing on July 13, but even that is currently in doubt.
United will train at 10.30am today before heading out on tour at 4.30pm.
Ronaldo’s presence on the tour has been heavily considered by the organizers and usually there are financial penalties for absent first teams. But Athleticism can confirm there is no contract clause linked to any United player, so the club are free of fines if Ronaldo stays out.
While abroad, Ten Hag will focus on players he can coach. The Aussie climate in Melbourne and Perth is moderate, so suited to the training blocks the United manager wants to use to start instilling his way of playing.
Fans at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium will get their first taste of this approach, as well as the new kit. Whether Ronaldo could wear it again after his day in front of the cameras will follow United on their travels.
(Top photo: Angel Martinez/Getty Images)